Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Weinhardt made the right decision by turning down the Houston Astros as a 38th round pick in 2007, as he improved his stock and was picked by the Tigers in the 10th round in 2008.
Upon signing, the Tigers were aggressive with Weinhardt, pushing him High-A Lakeland after just three outings in the Gulf Coast League. The substantial jump in competition didn't phase Robbie at all, as he posted a filthy 2.04 ERA with a 3-1 record and four saves in 35 1/3 innings. Weinhardt allowed only 19 hits and 11 walks, while striking out a dominating 44 hitters in his debut with Lakeland.
Despite his dominance in 2008, the Tigers held Weinhardt in Lakeland to start the 2009 season, but his outstanding start forced a promotion. In 22 outings for the Flying Tigers, Robbie again struck out more than a batter per inning, while also allowing well under a hit per inning; leading to a miniscule 0.85 ERA.
Once promoted to Double-A Erie, Weinhardt continued to pitch well, though his command wavered slightly. In 31 1/3 innings with Erie, Weinhardt notched a 2.30 ERA and 32 strikeouts.
The Tigers rewarded Weinhardt's strong 2008 and 2009 season with an assignment to the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League last year, and after a few rocking outings to start the season, he responded in a big way. Weinhardt finished as one of Peoria's top relievers, and even led the league in strikeouts despite pitching out of the bullpen.
Weinhardt is a classic two-pitch reliever with a power fastball and slider that both rate as above-average to plus pitches. Coming from a low-three quarters arm slot, is sinking fastball gets on hitters in a hurry, regularly sitting at 92-93, and touching 95 with regularity. He easily generates groundballs with his movement, and even when he misses his spot, he is tough to square up and drive.
The slider is a solid second pitch for Weinhardt, though he must improve his ability to command it to both sides of the plate. He shows an aptitude for mixing the breaking ball as both a swing-and-miss pitch, as well as one he throws within or near the strike zone.
Robbie has some deception to his delivery, which helps his fastball play up. He must improve his ability to throw quality strikes with his sinker, instead of just throwing a large quantity of strikes. If he can refine his command, Weinhardt could develop into an even more dominating reliever.
Weinhardt is a good athlete and he understands the game well from the mound. He absorbs information and changes quickly and is a diligent worker. There is little standing in the way of him becoming a 7th or 8th inning reliever, at a minimum.
To see Weber in action, view the scouting video below:
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG A+
Weinhardt showed some fatigue after a long debut season in 2008, but he remained strong throughout the 2009 regular season and fall league. He must continue to demonstrate his ability to pitch on back-to-back days, but all indications point to Weinhardt being a durable reliever.
On the heels of two dominating seasons, Weinhardt received a non-roster invitation to Major League spring training, where he will have an outside chance at earning a bullpen job with the big club. Weinhardt would need to be lights out this spring to earn that chance on Opening Day, but he should be there at some point in 2010.
Though he has closed at times during the last two years, Weinhardt profiles as more of a setup reliever with the ability (stamina and durability) to handle more than one inning. There is little left to prove in the minor leagues, and depending on the spring performances of other relievers, Weinhardt is likely to start the season in either Erie or Toledo.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.