Can I Interest You in Some Love for Cubs Infield Prospect Andy Weber?

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Can I Interest You in Some Love for Cubs Infield Prospect Andy Weber?

Chicago Cubs

We talk mostly about how the lost minor league season really put 2019 draftees (and slightly earlier IFA signings) in a weird spot, because they didn’t get their first full professional season. And, more to the point around here, we didn’t get to observe that first full pro season, which gives you a great sense of which guys are immediately on your radar at what appropriate level of hype.

That said, I was thinking today about a 2018 draftee who, because of the way his 2019 played out, is someone I really feel like I missed not getting to see what he would’ve done in 2020. That prospect is 2018 fifth rounder Andy Weber, and he got some stray love from BA a few weeks ago that I wanted to share and discuss.

Weber was noted on a list of under-the-radar guys who scouts were noticing at instructs this year:

A fifth-round pick out of Virginia in 2018, Weber fits the Tommy Edman/Jake Cronenworth mold of college infielders who get overshadowed by bigger or toolsier players but end up having more substantial careers. He showed himself to be a capable defensive shortstop during instructs with the body control, athleticism and actions to stay at the position in addition to a solid internal clock and the ability to make throws on the run. He earned consistent grades as an average hitter and flashed surprising power for his size and swing. Evaluators mostly see Weber as a future utilityman, but he seems to continually improve and has a chance to grow into a regular.

Weber, 23, played the whole year at Low-A South Bend in 2019, his first pro season (he was an over slot guy in the fifth round, by the way), and the bat definitely came along. Not only did he finish the season hitting a solid .275/.338/.400 (113 wRC+), but more importantly, he did what you want to see: he got much better in the right ways as the season went along. From June 28 on, he hit .293/.375/.432 (134 wRC+) as his walk rate improved, his strikeout rate fell (to just 18.2%), and his power jumped. You can go through his game log and it was just a steady improvement from the beginning to the end, with every part of his game getting better and better. Precisely what you want to see for any prospect, but especially what you’d want to see from a college draft pick in his first full pro season if you want to keep him on the radar.

I love seeing the scouting take from instructs, too, increasing the belief that he can play shortstop at the higher levels. Weber was mostly a second baseman in college, and even through his first year, it was questionable whether he was going to have the range long-term to play short. Weber doesn’t have to stay a “shortstop” to emerge as a valuable prospect and future contributor, but the difference between a non-shortstop-capable utility man who can hit a bit and an every-position-utility-infielder who can hit a bit … it’s a chasm. A guy in the first category who posts a 90 wRC+ in the big leagues (for example) is maybe a carryable 26th man if the glove is really solid at second and third. A guy in the second category with that same 90 wRC+? You would love to have him on your bench.

And it goes without saying that if the bat actually winds up a plus? You may have yourself an everyday contributor who can play multiple positions, including shortstop. Heckuva a prospect to have in the system.

Prospects Live ranked Weber 19th in the Cubs’ system in its recently-updated prospect rankings, and the scouting report sounds about right:

Physical Description: Lean, athletic frame. Room to add 10-15 pounds of mass. Plays hard, will be fan favorite.

Hit: Moderate load, still able to get around on fastballs due to above-average bat speed. Little to none movement pre-pitch movement, just a slight rock. Level, line drive oriented swing that utilizes all fields. Finds the barrel frequently. Grade: 50

Power: Power isn’t his game but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any. Sneaky pull-side power, but led the organization with 36 doubles. Will make loud contact. Grade: 45

Field: Second baseman at the University of Virginia, has been able to play an average shortstop as a professional. Has enough arm to stick on left side. Good hands and feet. Instinctual player. Seemingly in the right spot more often than not. Leader on the infield, whether he’s at short or second. Grade: 50

Arm: Good, accurate arm. Good enough to stick at short. Grade: 50

Run: Above-average runner. Doesn’t run often; but can swipe a bag. Grade: 55

Overall: A strong contact profile with enough speed and power and is good enough defensively to hold a big league job for several seasons. Solid role player that could very well exceed expectation due to plate skills and strong secondary skills.

Bonus highlight clip for fun:

Thanks to the lost year, Weber is already going to be Rule 5 eligible next December, which kinda sucks. The Cubs are going to need to know what they have in him pretty darn quickly in 2021. I expect he’ll be targeted for a return to South Bend in 2021, though that’s not a repeat of level – remember, South Bend is becoming the Cubs’ High-A team next year. The hope is probably that Weber could show himself ready for AA at some point (where he probably would have been in 2021 if he’d spent 2020 at High-A).

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.