In December, the A’s signed right handed pitcher Jordan Weems. Most didn’t even notice the news. He was a 27 year old minor league reliever with just 15 career innings in triple A. And on July 19th, Susan Slusser announced that Weems had been added to the A’s 40 man roster pool. This move got more attention, but was still rather inconspicuous in a season where bullpens will be used more than normal, and pitchers are going to be treated with extra care. Depth will be very important this year. So a 27 year old career minor leaguer being added to the 40 man so he can be called up in case of injury makes total sense. But if you take a closer look, you’ll find the culmination of a story that began in 2011, and more specifically 2016.
Jordan Weems was a third round pick in 2011 by the Boston Red Sox…as a catcher. He initially started out his career behind the plate, not throwing at it. And 5 years later, he had never appeared in more than 22 games at the double A level. That’s when management gave an interesting proposition to Weems: move to the mound. Weems was obviously not overjoyed with the idea. He had dreamed of making his major league debut with a number 2 next to his name on the lineup sheet. It was also a sign that the Red Sox didn’t value him highly as a catcher. But baseball is a game of adaptation. So he started throwing at the plate instead of standing behind it and took off like a rocket, appearing in triple A in both 2018 and 2019. It may have only been for a cup of coffee, but it was farther that he had ever been before. And now, in 2020, nine years after being drafted and four after moving to the mound, he’s knocking on the door of the majors. It’s a fascinating story about adaptation in a ruthless environment.
But Weems is more than just a good story. He got called up for a reason. Weems, despite not pitching competitively in 11 years, is very good at pitching. In Weems’s 55.2 innings between double A and triple A in 2019, he struck out a nice total of 69 batters for a 27.8 strikeout percentage while giving up 54 hits, only two of those being home runs. He does have command issues; 33 batters got a free pass when facing him for a 13.3 BB%, but even with those walk issues he put up a 2.92 FIP in just his fourth year of pitching at any level above little league. As he gets more experience, it stands to reason his walk rate will go down. His stuff already has great swing and miss potential, as his whiff percentage sat between 12-14% in his time at double A between 2018-2019.
Weems most significant asset, though, might be his ability to go multiple innings. He threw 55.2 innings in 2019, but only appeared in 41 games. Indeed, in his MLB debut on Tuesday night, Weems went three innings in a loss to the Rockies. Averaging over an inning per appearance is highly valuable, especially in a season where bullpens are going to be leaned on more often than before. But unlike some other multi inning relievers, Weems isn’t a soft thrower. Like his strikeout numbers suggest, Weems arsenal is a wonderful medley of stuff, featuring a fastball that can hit 99, a curveball with slurve-like movement, and a splitter. It’s a beautiful combination of pitches that earned him a spot on the 40 man roster and the opportunity to come out of the bullpen for the A’s.
So if you see a tall, hard throwing pitcher with hair like golden magma running down his shoulders, that’s not A.J. Puk you’re looking at. That’s Weems. Remember his name. If you don’t, he’s flown under the radar for so long he’s used to it. He was a free agent. Other teams had the chance to sign him. But they didn’t. This year, he’s gonna make them pay.