Then & Now is a weekly feature at Indians Prospect Insider during the offseason that takes a look at a prospect’s past and present while also offering a possible glimpse into the prospect’s future.
In recent years, few prospects have had a larger following than outfielder Nick Weglarz. Drafted by the Indians in the third round of the 2005 draft, the Canadian native has now evolved into one of the more polarizing prospects among fans.
Most seem to have come to the conclusion that Weglarz and his former prospect shine seemed to fade away a long time ago, but there are still a few that hold onto the hope that Weglarz can possibly one day still become the powerful outfield bat that he was thought to be.
It’s been a long ride for Weglarz as the left-handed hitter has now been in the Tribe’s system in one way or another since the 2005 season. At times, he’s certainly impressed, but his career has also been hampered with a string of injuries. With that said, let’s dive right in and take a look at what has certainly been an intriguing minor league career for Weglarz.
As previously stated, Weglarz came to the Indians in the 2005 draft, and almost immediately, fans were excited for the potential future of the young man. It was easy to see why.
At 6-foot-3, Weglarz had plenty of size, and he definitely seemed to project as a player capable of hitting double-digit home runs in the Major Leagues. Since he was drafted when he was just 17 years old, many understood it might take a few years, but it seemed as if Weglarz would be one of the most exciting prospects to watch move through the system. And for awhile, he was just that.
In 2007, Weglarz really began to leave his mark. Over the span of 127 games at Class-A Lake County and Class-A Kinston, Weglarz posted a line of .274/.393/.498 with an ISO of .224. In that year, he also recorded 24 home runs and 28 doubles while driving in 83 runs. The earlier forecasts about the young man’s powerful bat seemed to be coming true.
Weglarz’s numbers dipped a bit in 2008 at Kinston, but there was still much to like. In 106 games, he posted a .272/.396/.432 line with 10 home runs and 41 RBI. But even more impressive was the fact that Weglarz showed he was becoming a better, more disciplined hitter. After striking out 131 times and drawing 83 walks in 2007, Weglarz drew 71 walks against 78 strikeouts in 2008. This number becomes even more impressive when you realize that Weglarz was just 20 years old when he was displaying such impressive plate discipline. As expected, the national scouts started to take notice.
Prior to the 2009 season, Baseball America ranked Weglarz as the No. 58 prospect in all of baseball. Weglarz struggled somewhat that season at Double-A Akron (.227/.377.431), but his patience and approach remained impeccable as he drew 75 walks against 78 strikeouts.
Despite the down season, Weglarz seemed to be on the fast track to Cleveland. In spurts, he had shown that his bat could translate to the Majors, but even more importantly, Weglarz showed the plate discipline that can help separate the good hitters from bad hitters and the great hitters from good hitters.
In 2010, Weglarz made the jump to Triple-A Columbus, and between his time with the Clippers and Aeros posted a line of .285/.387/.511. He also posted an impressive ISO of .225 in his 37 games at Akron and an ISO of .211 in 50 games with Columbus.
On the surface, the future looked very bright for the 22-year-old, but there were some negative signs discretely becoming somewhat noticeable.
For one, the home run numbers continued to decrease. While Weglarz’s ISO suggested that he was capable of hitting a high number of home runs, tangible results were not present. Also, at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, Weglarz had the type of body that he really needed to take good care of, but there were signs that he was not doing that.
And then, 2011 happened.
Nick Weglarz is not the prospect he once was. In fact, it’s sad to say but the term “prospect” might even be a little too generous at this point.
Weglarz has struggled with minor injuries at various points in his career, but at no time were they worse than during the 2011 season. After tearing the meniscus in his left knee during spring training, Weglarz opened the season in extended spring training. He did not join a team until June 5, which is when he was assigned to the Aeros.
For the remainder of the summer, Weglarz went on the disabled list three times and only played in 41 games for Akron. The 41 games were not pretty either; Weglarz posted a line of .179/.360/.306. Perhaps the only positive was that the plate discipline still seemed to be there as Weglarz drew 36 walks against 43 strikeouts.
Going into the 2012 season, it was not known what to expect from Weglarz. However, he was still a member of the team’s 40-man roster, so it did at least appear as if the Indians had not yet given up on the young slugger. That is, until May 12. On that day, the Indians designated Weglarz for assignment. As you know, he was not claimed and remained in Akron, but the designation does seem to indicate that he had fallen out of favor with the team’s front office.
What is Weglarz’s future in regard to the Tribe’s system? Does he even have one? Given the long road that Weglarz has had, it’d be easy to write him off, but there are still some reasons to believe that Weglarz could possibly turn the corner.
For one, he is still only 24-years-old and does not turn 25 until December. He’s been around so long that it seems as if he’s a grizzled veteran, but he is still very much a young player.
Secondly, Weglarz was basically healthy in 2012. After such a disappointing year in 2011, Weglarz played in 109 games in 2012 with Akron and posted a line of .239/.239/.413 to go along with 14 home runs and 58 RBI.
Also, he seems to still show the ability to get hot at times. Shortly after being designated for assignment, Weglarz seemed to play with a chip on his shoulder. In 28 games in June, Weglarz posted a line of .292/.415/.625 with eight home runs and 21 RBI. The sheer impressiveness of that stretch cannot be denied.
Yet, for every yin, there is a yang, and there are certainly reasons to suggest that Weglarz has officially faded as a prospect. One point is that he has now spent all or part of the past four years in Akron. Maybe he just really likes Canal Park, or maybe he just has been unable to make that next step and at least entrench himself at Columbus.
Even more troubling is that his plate discipline, which was previously lauded by so many, basically evaporated in 2012 as he drew just 58 walks against 140 strikeouts.
As an outfielder who projects to have some power, however, Weglarz still remains a player worth a look. However, the clock started ticking a long time ago and he is a minor league free agent this offseason. What was once a promising career has now become a major question mark. Time will tell what the future holds, but the only problem is that Weglarz does not have much time left.