The Oakland A’s will have some new players on the team when the season begins Friday, and one of them is reliever Jordan Weems, who was added to the 40-man roster last weekend. Not only is Weems new to Oakland, but to the majors entirely, as the 27-year-old minor league free agent signing is yet to pitch above Triple-A in his career. He’s also new to pitching in general, as he only converted to the position in 2016 after previously being a catcher.
That means we’ve never seen Weems on an MLB field, in any uniform, but we got an early preview on Monday in Oakland’s exhibition game against the Giants. The right-hander entered in the 7th inning in the middle of a rally, and faced two batters for a total of four pitches. Here’s a closer look.
Weems came in with a runner on second base and two outs. His first batter was righty Wilmer Flores, a quality MLB hitter coming off arguably his best season last summer. His first pitch to Flores was a slider dropped perfectly on the outside corner for a called strike. Next he went hard in, 96.3 on the inside corner, and this time he drew a swing. Flores hit it but not well, getting jammed and lofting a soft flare, but unfortunately it went toward nobody and landed safely for a lucky bloop hit — and enough to score the inherited runner.
The result was bad, but it’s hard to fault Weems. He threw two good pitches and successfully induced weak contact from a good hitter. This is pretty much the definition of BABIP noise.
Next up was Steven Duggar, a lefty who has not been productive at the plate in his young career so far. Weems started him off up and away at 95.9, getting a generous call on the upper-right corner of the zone. He then gave Duggar a slider a little bit outside, and Duggar chased it, sending a soft grounder to shortstop for a routine out.
Here’s his pitch chart, from Baseball Savant. The orange alone on the right side is the first-pitch slider to Flores (called strike). The green dot on the left edge of the zone is the fastball Flores hit, and the green slightly to its lower-left is the slider Duggar hit. The other orange in our upper-left is the called-strike fastball to Duggar.
We didn’t get to see much of Weems, and certainly not enough to draw anything remotely resembling a conclusion, but it was a nice first impression. We saw the plus velocity that was advertised, with possibly another mile or two still waiting up his sleeve. We saw him place his breaking ball for a strike, and boldly do so as the first pitch of an at-bat — plus we still haven’t seen his new splitter that’s been mentioned. And although he didn’t stay out there long enough to get a swing-and-miss, he did generate two pieces of weak contact. At the very least, I’m interested to see more of him.
Weems is going to begin the year in the majors, so perhaps we could get another look at him (for his MLB debut!) as soon as this weekend in the season-opening series.
The A’s play the Angels from Friday through Monday, with Opening Day televised at 7:10 p.m. on ESPN.