DENVER -- Rockies third-round Draft pick Sam Weatherly, a left-handed starter from Clemson who posted a 0.79 ERA in four starts during the abbreviated college season, has something one would not expect on his stat sheet.
“I failed an abnormal amount, you could say, my first two years at Clemson,” Weatherly said. “Even in high school, I was good, but I wasn’t the star or anything like that. I wasn’t miserable, but at times, it was really hard to fail a lot and not see any results.
“But it’s keeping your head down and working hard. It took 2 1/2 years for me to find my groove. I’m glad that I failed. I’m glad it all happened. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Weatherly, 21, doesn’t mind discussing his freshman college season. The 2017 Michigan Mr. Baseball Award winner from Howell High School went to Clemson as a two-way player, but he had a 6.64 ERA in 14 mound appearances and went 1-for-10 as a batter in 2018. He then took command of his career with a phone call to Tigers head coach Monte Lee.
“I wasn’t fantastic on the mound, and I wasn’t smashing balls at the plate,” Weatherly said. “I wanted to make a significant impact on the team. I wanted to help Clemson win in one capacity.”
From there, Weatherly figured out how to best use his 6-foot-4 frame and strong arm by focusing on pitching. The scouting report says his fastball generally runs 91-94 mph, but it can touch 96 and is a swing-and-miss pitch. His best pitch, a low-80s slider that eluded right- and left-handed hitters, came after experimentation with a cutter.
“But then, I ended up moving down the horseshoe [the shape of the seams] and throwing it in the bullpen,” Weatherly said. “And we were like, ‘That’s a pitch we can work with.’”
As a sophomore, Weatherly pitched in relief and trimmed his ERA nearly in half, to 3.37, while notching 46 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings. Last summer, in the Cape Cod League. he went 0-1 with a 4.32 ERA, 18 strikeouts and 12 walks in 16 2/3 innings. But his improvement showed not in those numbers, but in how he developed his approach.
“I really honed in on a routine,” Weatherly said. “Things that helped me were reflection and journaling. We did make physical adjustments, but where I made the most strides was between the ears.”
The confidence carried Weatherly through the spring at Clemson.
“I feel like I’m one of the hardest-working guys in the class. I really got after it," Weatherly said. "That’s what gave me confidence. I felt strong not only physically, but mentally. As I got better on the field, I started to gain even more confidence.”
Rockies vice president of scouting Bill Schmidt said, “Weatherly was a kid we scouted out of high school and followed him down to Clemson. The growth as a person that he made in the last year helped him. He got off to a good start. With that came confidence. He put together a pretty good four-week run.”
Weatherly's slider is an opposite-hand version of Rockies righty Jon Gray’s in that it is thrown with fastball attitude and arm speed. His goal is to develop command similar to what Kyle Freeland has shown when at his best. His next step is to incorporate his changeup -- which he didn’t need much against overmatched collegiate hitters -- and potentially even a fourth pitch.
“To be an effective starter, especially at these levels, you’ve got to be able to mix pitches and show guys different things,” Weatherly said. “Going forward, that’s going to be a big emphasis.”