Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Weinhardt joined the Tigers as a tenth round choice in the 2008 draft out of Oklahoma State. As a reliever for the Cowboys, Robbie totaled 45 innings in two seasons with a 4.13 ERA. One thing Weinhardt has succeeded at is striking hitters out, whiffing over twelve batters per nine innings over his two years at OSU. The Houston Astros selected Robbie in the 38th round following his first season at OSU, though he opted not to sign and stayed in school for another season. Prior to joining the OSU pitching staff, he hurled for Hill Junior College, where he was a 1st Team All-Conference selection on the back of 3.30 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings of work.
In his pro debut, Weinhardt was nothing short of spectacular. In just six innings of work for the GCL Tigers, Robbie struck out four and didn't allow a run before being promoted to Lakeland of the Florida State League. Weinhardt continued his scoreless innings streak throughout much of his time in the FSL, and even when he proved human, he was still spectacular. Robbie saved four games for the Flying Tigers and finished with a 3-1 record and 2.04 ERA in 24 games. For his efforts in July (2-0, 0.00 ERA), Weinhardt was named the TigsTown Lakeland Pitcher of the Month.
Weinhardt is a classic sinker-slider power reliever with enough stuff to be a late inning guy on many teams. His fastball made a big jump over the last two years, leaping from the high-80s to the 92-94 range. While he can reach back for a touch more if need be, he controls things better when he sits in the low-90s. He is still learning to get consistent sink on his two-seamer, but when he is working well, he is able to work low with good sink that generates plenty of groundballs.
Robbie compliments his heater with a sharp mid-80s slider that has excellent tilt and bite late in the zone. He commands the pitch well to both sides of the plate and has the ability to work it to both lefties and righties with aplomb. With just two pitches, and having shown little feel for a change-up, Robbie is a reliever through and through, but his temperament lends well to the role. He attacks hitters with his stuff and often refuses to back down and work outside the strike zone; even when it may benefit him.
A strike throwing machine, Weinhardt walks few hitters and generally works ahead in the count where he can choose his pitches and set things up to his liking. If Weinhardt has a downfall, it is his ability to command the ball within the strike zone, often leaving it over the heart of the plate where it is more hittable. Because he works around the plate so much, he could be susceptible to giving up base hits at higher levels, and he would likely benefit from continuing to learn how to work just outside the zone; making hitters hit his pitch more often. In the end, Robbie projects as a solid 7th or 8th inning reliever with excellent groundball tendencies and a nasty streak that works well in the bullpen.
See Weinhardt in action in his scouting video:
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG R
To date, Weinhardt has had little to no arm trouble. Though he wore down toward the end of his pro debut, Robbie has displayed an exceptional ability to bounce back quickly and pitch on back-to-back days. His mechanics are clean and repeateable, hopefully lending to continued health.
After some serious success against Florida State League opponents, Weinhardt is a near lock to start the 2009 season with Double-A Erie. The Tigers were impressed with his ability to attack hitters by pounding the zone, and they have high hopes for his ability to move quickly.
Though he doesn't ultimately have the ceiling of the big four relievers drafted at the top of the 2008 draft for the Tigers, Robbie does have the stuff and moxie to move quickly without being rattled. If he picks up where he left off at the end of the 2008 season, don't be shocked if you hear his name mentioned for a possible role in Detroit in 2009. While that may seem an aggressive timetable, he could likely be an effective middle reliever right now, and if the Tigers aren't able to fill their bullpen needs through free agency, they may turn to in house options such as Weinhardt.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.