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.