Sam Weatherly received early-round interest in the 2017 MLB draft as a prep left-handed pitcher from Michigan. But major league teams were unwilling to match the dollar amount he was seeking for a signing bonus, he said.
Weatherly ended up hearing his name called in the 27th round by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017, but he was content with honoring his collegiate commitment to Clemson University.
The decision to attend Clemson has worked out well for Weatherly. Although he experienced mixed results in his first two seasons, Weatherly thrived in an abbreviated junior season this spring to position himself as one of the top prospects in this year’s MLB draft class.
The 6-foot-4, 213-pound lefty likely will be a top-three-round pick in this year’s draft.
“I’m lucky and really, really fortunate to be able to do this,” Weatherly said. “I really, really enjoy it. Scouts are always saying that they are sorry for bugging me, but it’s a really good thing to be getting bugged right now.
“It’s fun, and I love to hear what they have to say or what their organization is like and what they’re about. I really like learning about that stuff. It’s really cool to be going through it a second time. I’m excited about what’s coming up.”
Weatherly started his collegiate career as a two-way player in 2018. He received five starts his freshman year, pitching in eight total games, and posted a 6.64 ERA with 17 strikeouts and 17 walks allowed in 20 1/3 innings. At the plate, the left-handed hitter recorded one hit in 10 at-bats for a .100 batting average.
In the summer after his freshman season, Weatherly called Clemson coach Monte Lee and told him he just wanted to focus on pitching. The move allowed Weatherly to dedicate all of his time to pitching, which translated into better results in his sophomore year. He served as a valuable option out of Clemson’s bullpen, posting a 3.38 ERA with 46 strikeouts and 30 walks allowed in 29 1/3 innings.
Weatherly wasn’t stratified with his sophomore season, though. He returned to Clemson in the fall, after competing in the prestigious Cape Cod League, and made some adjustments in hopes of displaying better command.
He changed his long-toss program by shortening the distance he threw from, only going to 120 to 150 feet on a daily basis. The change allowed him to throw the ball from a consistent arm slot the entire time he long tossed, he said.
He also implemented a throwing program where he’d throw overweight and oversized and underweight and undersized baseballs to develop a better feel for pitching. He made slight adjustments to his mechanics to make sure he stayed balanced on the mound.
The changes worked well for Weatherly this spring. In four starts, he served as Clemson’s top starter and recorded a 0.79 ERA with 43 strikeouts and 14 walks allowed in 22 2/3 innings.
“I thought I was headed on the right track,” Weatherly said. “I thought I was getting better every start. I thought I made strides every week. It’s tough that I don’t get to play out the rest of my season, but everyone is in the same boat.”
Weatherly throws a four-seam fastball, slider and changeup. He’s mostly a two-pitch pitcher, throwing his fastball and slider most of the time. His best pitch is his slider, which he has a strong feel for and serves as a wipeout offering. His mid-90s fastball also is an above-average pitch that leads to swings and misses up in the strike zone.
“I just think my competitiveness is my biggest strength,” Weatherly said. “It’s a double-edged sword because if there’s one thing that will mess me up, it’s my competitiveness or my aggressiveness.
“I don’t make non-aggressive mistakes. All my mistakes are super aggressive and that’s when I get in trouble. I am never going to take my foot off the gas or baby a pitch into the zone. That’s not what I’m about. But when I’m controlled and finding that middle ground, that’s when I’m at my best.”
Weatherly’s changeup is a developing pitch that he only threw about 5 percent of the time this spring, he estimated. His changeup is behind his other two pitches, but it has the potential to develop into a solid offering.
“I just need to throw it more,” Weatherly said. “I have a grip that works for me and it’s inconsistent. Every now and then I can really throw a good changeup. It’s just a matter of throwing it more and getting more reps.”
Although Weatherly’s first three years of collegiate baseball didn’t always go as he anticipated, he is thankful for his time at Clemson. He believes he’s “a work in progress” but is happy with the improvements he’s made over the last year to position himself as one of the top prospects in this year’s draft class.
“I failed a ton and that’s been the greatest teacher for me,” Weatherly said. “I’m not glad that I failed, but I have used that to reflect on and learn from. That’s what’s pushed me forward in my career, especially this year. I still think I’m a work in progress and that I haven’t reached my peak or full potential yet. I’m excited for what’s coming.”
Read more stories on top 2020 MLB draft prospects here.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for five years. He’s interviewed 191 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.