Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Thad Weber was an unheralded draft pick of the Tigers in June 2008 out of the University of Nebraska. Weber was a 16th round selection after two statistically mediocre years with the ‘Huskers. As a senior at the Big 12 school, Weber was named to the conference's second team while also being named to the All-Academic squad. Working in the weekend rotation for the first time, Weber compiled a 9-5 record with a 6.15 ERA in 15 games spanning 79 innings.
Working out of the bullpen during his first season at Nebraska, Weber notched three saves in 21 outings while striking out 30 batters in just 24 1/3 innings. The Cincinnati Reds took Weber in the 35th round though he opted to return to school and improve his draft stock.
After high school, Thad attended Hutchinson Community College where he excelled on both the mound and at first base. Weber was named a 2nd Team All-NJCAA All-Star in 2006, while also being named 1st Team All-Jayhawk Conference as both a pitcher and a first baseman. He was named the Jayhawk West Player of the Year on the back of a season that saw him hit a robust .453 with 63 RBIs, while also notching a 10-0 record and 2.16 ERA on the hill. During his outstanding sophomore season, Weber tied the school records for doubles (27), and slugged an impressive .724.
After just two brief relief appearances (both scoreless) in the Gulf Coast League with nine strikeouts in four innings, the Tigers quickly promoted Weber to West Michigan for the stretch drive. Weber started eleven times for the ‘Caps and though he amassed a 2.56 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in those contests, he finished the season with only a 1-4 record. Weber's performance with West Michigan was so strong that the Tigers did not hesitate to promote him to Lakeland for the start of the 2009 season.
Weber is primarily a two-pitch guy with a good fastball and slider that both show as above-average pitches. His fastball is fairly straight though he can run it up to the 94-95 range without losing control. He works both sides of the plate with ease and he understands how to elevate and change the eye level of opposing hitters. With his outstanding control of the fastball, it often plays as a plus offering despite the lack of movement.
Though some scouts call it a curveball, his breaking pitch is more of a tight, late biting slider that can be dominating when he stays on top of it. As he refines his consistency with the pitch, it has the potential to be a true big league out pitch that he has the confidence to throw in any count. He controls the slider well and can routinely keep it low in the zone to induce groundballs.
Though he has a change-up that he will throw a few times a game, the pitch is not a reliable offering that Weber can count on in crucial situations. Without further development of his change-up, Weber is likely more of a fourth or fifth starter that can log plenty of innings and keep his team in the game.
Weber is very poised and far more mature than most pitchers in their first full year. Already married with one child, Weber has a sound understanding of his life responsibilities and baseball is viewed as a livelihood and career move for him. His work ethic is strong and he has everything needed to be a big league pitcher.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG A+
Weber avoided significant injury and there are very few reports of extensive arm soreness or fatigue. He has a durable frame and quiet mechanics that should lend to remaining healthy over the long haul. Weber will turn 25 in September, and he has already largely exited the young pitcher injury nexus.
Weber hasn't missed a beat with the assignment to High-A to start the 2009 season, and he is beginning to make more and more noise as a prospect. He has enough stuff, particularly with his consistent mechanics and outstanding command, to get advanced hitters out, and he could get that chance later this year. He is still likely on a 2011 timetable to the big leagues, but that could be accelerated because of his advanced age and impressive command and approach to the game.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.