The Cubs have been stockpiling pitchers on minor-league deals, the latest of which is lefty Richard Lovelady. The former A’s reliever impressed at his Driveline Pro Day with a series of sinkers that moved as though possessed and changeups that displayed arm-side fade. The Cubs also reportedly signed lefty Blake Weiman based on his Driveline showcase performance, plus they added righty Sam McWilliams.
Congrats to Richard Lovelady on signing with the Cubs from Pro Day ??? Here’s his pro day bullpen ? pic.twitter.com/GT6VwC3lTq
— Driveline Baseball (@DrivelineBB) January 30, 2024
The 28-year-old Lovelady stands out here because of his name — I’m not nearly mature enough to avoid giggling while thinking about Dick Lovelady — and also the potential he flashed during a very brief stint with the Royals in 2021. He debuted two years earlier with 20 uninspiring innings over 25 appearances, then pitched in just one inning during the truncated 2020 season.
Before his elbow gave out in ’21, Lovelady put up a 3.48 ERA with 24 strikeouts and 10 walks over 20.2 innings in 20 appearances. He didn’t pitch again until this past season with the A’s, prior to which he made a brief stop in the Braves system. His fastball velocity was right around 91 mph, which was down a couple ticks from his ’21 campaign.
Though both his sinker and four-seam were very effective in spite of the dip, the slider that made up nearly half of his pitches just wasn’t working. If the Driveline data is any indication, Lovelady’s fastball is back up in that 92-ish range and should play up higher in game action. I’m really interested in the changeup, though, because he threw more of them in the bullpen video above (5) than he threw all last year for Oakland.
The lefty was also showing off a curveball that should sit in the low 80s with less sweep than the slider, differentiating it in terms of both shape and velocity. It could be that he’s had the curve in his bag and just never threw it in games, though maybe it’s something he picked up at Driveline. Now let’s get back to the change for just a moment.
He throws it nearly 87 mph, right in line with the slider, but it looks like it fades back to the arm-side where the slider heads in the other direction. Tunneling those two offerings could give him a nasty look, particularly when his sinker is getting that kind of sick run. The Cubs have a pretty full bullpen without much flexibility due to so many members of the 40-man being out of options, but they have needed lefties for a while now.
Weiman is another possibility there, though he has not yet gotten so much as a cup of coffee and his velocity numbers appear to fall shy of Lovelady’s across the board. Not that velo is the only indicator of success, of course, it’s just that throwing harder creates more margin for error. The lack of MLB experience means I don’t have much to go on as far as the 28-year-old’s repertoire, but it’s notable that he appears to be getting similar action on the changeup to what we saw with Lovelady.
My first thought was that they might both be throwing Vulcan variations, though they get their results in different ways. Weiman generates higher-than-average spin with a direction around 8:45-9:00 while Lovelady has a little lower-than-average spin with a 10-10:30 direction. A lot of that is arm angle and whatnot, the key is that they both get to more induced horizontal break than normal. That could end up meaning nothing, I just found it interesting.
I’d also be interested to know whether that’s purely coincidental based on their existing grips or the small sample from the videos in question, or whether the folks at Driveline employed similar tactics for both pitchers.
McWilliams, also 28 and not to be confused with the former Dodgers infield prospect, is going to get the short end of the stick because it’s late and I’ve already written way more than necessary here. As Ken Rosenthal reported on Monday, the righty was out of affiliated ball for over a year before bouncing back with winter ball stints in Mexico and the Dominican.
He’s never appeared in an MLB game but has played for the Phillies, Diamondbacks, Rays, Padres, Mets, and Reds over parts of eight seasons. It appears as though McWilliams suffered from a bad case of the yips starting in 2021, leading to 68 walks in 67.2 innings. Yikes. Rather than scout the box score further, I’ll just mark this one down as a potential lottery ticket pickup. You have to admire the dude for sticking with it, and I love me an underdog story.
The people who probably need to read this probably didn’t get past the headline, but I’ll say it anyway just in case. These deals carry no risk for the club and could work out well for team and player(s) alike. Every team does this every year, so it’s not a sign that either Jed Hoyer or ownership is cheap.