The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted right-handed pitcher Jake Webb in the 19th round in 2017 out of Pittsburg HS in Kansas. At 6’4″, 200 pounds, and turning 18 years old just days before the draft, he offered a lot of projection. The Pirates signed him for a $125,000 bonus to break a commitment to Kansas State.

We got to see Webb twice this season before he stopped pitching at the end of July after five appearances. We heard that he had some arm soreness after checking in with him early in August, but we never got a chance to catch up with him after that point. I was able to talk to him last night and we found out that he had elbow surgery a short time after we heard about the arm soreness.

Yesterday, we wrote about John Pomeroy and Shea Murray returning from elbow surgeries. Pomeroy had Tommy John surgery done, while Murray also had a torn UCL, but was able to undergo a new procedure with a shorter return time. It’s one where they stitch the ligament back to the bone. Unfortunately, it isn’t an option for every player, which still makes Tommy John surgery with it’s longer return time necessary. It turns out with Webb, that he had a completely different surgery than those two players.

Webb had what is known as Ulnar Nerve Transposition. It involves moving the ulnar nerve to avoid irritation, which causes numbness in the arm and makes it difficult to straighten your arm out fully, which is obviously important for a pitcher. From this medical site, they define it as follows:

“Repositioning the ulnar nerve to prevent it from sliding against or becoming pinched by the medial epicondyle (the bony bump on the inner side of the elbow). The nerve can be routed over, through, or under the muscles of the forearm. The new placement will prevent the nerve from being compressed against the medial epicondyle when the elbow is bent.”

In checking the recovery time, I noticed three pitchers from the New York Mets recently had the surgery. The best example for full recovery, which was listed in some places as 3-6 months, came from Erik Goeddel, who had it done in November of 2016. He was ready on Opening Day this year, just five months later.

Webb has already started his throwing, so the injury shouldn’t be a concern for next year. That’s especially true with a player who is going to either pitch in the GCL or Bristol next year, so there isn’t any rush to get him going before Extended Spring Training starts in early April. He’s a pitcher with tons of projection, already hitting 92 MPH before the draft, with a lots of room to fill out and youth on his side. Webb throws a slider, which is a fairly new pitch for him and he has some comfort throwing his changeup, but it too needs work. The slider has a two-seam grip like his fastball, which he said gave him a better feel for the pitch, compared to the curve he threw in high school.

He pitched just seven innings after signing with the Pirates and missed the Fall Instructional League, though he was there on the rehab side. That inexperience could keep him in the GCL next year, as opposed to the typical prep pitcher jumping to Bristol in his first full season. Here’s some video from his first pro outing, plus him pitching a bullpen a few days prior to the game video.

Bullpen session

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6 COMMENTS

  1. It seems to me that pitchers who can throw 90+ and have large bodies are prime picks in the draft. I guess it is assumed that they can be taught how to throw a slider, curve and change up, control and command don’t seem that improtant. If a large body pitcher can already throw those pitchers whether for strikes or not, then they are seen as a potential number one starter. This seems ill advised to me but what do I know, I am only a fan reflecting what it seems to be based on what I read here.

    • I agree with you. However the big fastball basically tells you the upside of the pitcher. That is the foundational pitch off of which everything else is built. But I do think the Pirates sometimes over-emphasize the fastball and under-emphasize things like control and deception, ala a pitcher like Kyle Hendricks. Seems the Pirates sometimes have blinders on for this kind of stuff – i.e. drafting fro OBP over power (which they may have rectified this draft class), focusing on groundball/pitch-to-contact over strikeout pitchers, etc.

      • Twenty years ago I knew it as the rule of 90/75. That means if you were a RH pitcher who could throw 90 in HS, and be 6’3″ (75″) or taller, you were very projectable. Scouts would seek you out and give you a big head. That has probably increased to 93/75 and if you are 95/75 you are special. Tyler Glasnow was special. He will be special again if he can develop a plus off-speed pitch, and develop better Command of that FB and Curve. Keller has shown the pitches, the Command, and the demeanor.

        Dan O’Dowd has called radar guns the worst enemy of scouting. Lots of so-called scouts, bird-dogs, etc. just read the numbers.

  2. “Come closer, they’re listening and I don’t want anyone else to hear this,” says Webb to his friend upon noticing the photographer.

    He showed decent but inconsistent glove-side command of his fastball, and that was a decent slider he dropped in for a strike in the game video, but that bullpen session was awfully erratic. He’s pretty quick to the plate from the stretch, though, so that’s a good thing.

    • That was the only pic we got of him unfortunately, at least until March when minor league camp starts up. Tim was busy filming him each time and then never saw him again. That debut was just the one inning, otherwise he would have taken photos in the second.

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