Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Weber joined the Tigers' farm system as a 16th round pick in the 2008 draft, after having previously been drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 35th round. Looking at Weber's numbers while at the University of Nebraska doesn't do him justice, as he posted only modest numbers in two years of Division I baseball. Prior to joining the Cornhuskers, Weber was a standout first baseman and pitcher at Hutchinson Community College, earning Jayhawk West Player of the Year honrs in 2006.
The Tigers signed Weber quickly and allowed him to get his feet wet with four quick innings in the Gulf Coast League before promoting him to class-A West Michigan. He joined the Whitecaps for the stretch drive and accomplished more in eleven starts than anyone could have imagined. Though Weber's record stood at only 1-4, he put up a 2.56 ERA, just over a base runner per inning, and nearly a strikeout per inning, providing the ‘Caps with a quality starter for the playoff drive.
Promoted to high-A Lakeland to start the 2009 season, Weber started off red-hot through 12 starts with the Flying Tigers; closing his time there with a 4-4 record and 2.13 ERA. Though his strikeout rate dipped, Weber posted fantastic walk rates in Lakeland, yielding just 1.5 free passes per nine innings.
Weber was quickly promoted to Double-A Erie where he found the sledding a little tougher. The combination of more advanced and polished hitters, and some injuries may have slowed his run of stellar pitching. Around some missed starts in August, Weber made 13 starts for the Seawolves, highlighted by a his August 16th no-hitter against Akron. In the contest, Weber did not allow a walk while striking out ten, losing his bid for a perfect game when a runner reached on an error in the third inning.
After returning to health and tossing some tune-up bullpen sessions in the Fall Instructional League, the Tigers sent Weber to the Arizona Fall League where he appeared in eight games as a reliever for Peoria. Weber allowed 18 hits in just 12 innings during the AFL, but he maintained his excellent control, walking only two against 13 strikeouts.
Weber is a pretty classic righty that can do a little bit of everything, but not blow you away with anything. His fastball has reached as high as 94-95 in short stints, but he works consistently in the 89-91 range, with a few 92's thrown in during each start. He commands his fastball to both sides of the plate well, and he is learning when and how to elevate with success. Weber's fastball is a bit straight, but the precision with which he throws it help alleviate some of the problems caused by a lack of movement.
In conjunction with his fastball, Weber throws both a curveball (some scouts see it as more of a slider) and a change-up. The curveball has good angled break most of the time, and he has improved his ability to locate the pitch; showing an aptitude for throwing it in the strike zone or out of the zone as a swing-and-miss pitch. The change-up is fringe-average by most accounts, but it is good enough to be used with reguarlity.
Weber is a solid athlete that fields his position well. He is extremely mature and maintains excellent poise on the mound. Though he has the arsenal and is perceived to have the durability to start, some scouts like him better in the bullpen, where they believe his fastball will play up a notch. Weber has a variety of paths to the big leagues, and he could likely succeed as a big league pitcher in just about any role.
To see Weber in action, view the scouting video below:
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG A+
Weber battled some minor injuries toward the end of the 2009 season, missing time at Erie with some shoulder soreness and fatigue. He rested and strengthened his shoulder and returned to the mound in time to report to the AFL. Once in Arizona, he came down with some pain in his triceps during a bullpen session, and was shut down. After nearly two weeks, Weber was back throwing without pain and he pitched the rest of the fall without incident. Indications are the shoulder and triceps are healthy and ready to go for 2010, but Weber will need to be watched carefully this season to make sure there is no recurrence.
After basically dominating the A-ball ranks, Weber hit his first speed bump in Double-A, but he still showed flashes that he could pitch effectively at that level. With numerous minor league free agents, as well as several internal options for the Toledo rotation, Weber appears destined to slot back into the Erie rotation to start the 2010 season.
Aside from trusting his change-up more and just gaining more experience against advanced professional lineups, there isn't much left for Weber to prove in the minor leagues. He could be ready to see time in Detroit as early as mid-season 2010, and unless injuries plague him, he could be competing for a full-time slot on the big league staff in 2011.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.