On Tuesday night, Padres left-hander Ryan Weathers made his big-league debut as part of San Diego’s loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. Weathers’ appearance was notable because he became the second pitcher in league history to make his first major-league outing during the playoffs, and because he missed out on becoming the first by hours: Tampa Bay left-hander Shane McClanahan had debuted on Monday night, as the Rays battled the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series.

You might be wondering who Weathers and McClanahan are, and what their prospects are for the future. With that in mind, let’s shine a spotlight on both ahead of Wednesday’s action.

We’ll start with McClanahan. He was the 31st pick in the 2018 draft, making him the highest player selected from the University of South Florida since 1997. The local kid angle is threadbare, and the Rays certainly don’t care about that stuff, but it makes for a nice touch.

More so than geographical coincidences, McClanahan went high because he has a powerful left arm. He threw 15 pitches in his debut, and averaged 97 mph in what was a fastball-heavy outing. McClanahan does have an above-average breaking ball that complements his cheese, but he didn’t break it out. He did, however, come close to triple digits with his fastest pitch of the night.

The concern with McClanahan has never been about his arm strength or the potency of his curveball. Rather, it has to do with his lagging changeup and the command issues that stem from consistency problems with his delivery. Those factors have led evaluators to cast him as a future reliever, albeit one who should excel in a high-leverage role.

McClanahan had already reached Double-A last season, and he was likely to debut in the majors at some point this year anyway. In that sense, his promotion was predictable. It’s unclear if he’s here to stay, or if the Rays will farm out next spring to continue his development as a starter.

Weathers was also part of that 2018 class. Even though he was a prep arm, he went much higher than McClanahan did, as the Padres popped him with the seventh overall pick. Generally, high school arms that go off the board that early are all about projection, projection, projection. Weathers is not about that whatsoever; he’s physically mature and he’s more polished than you’d his age and professional experience suggest. Perhaps that last part isn’t too surprising given that his father David pitched in part of 19 big-league seasons, mostly as a reliever.

The younger Weathers still projects as a mid-rotation starter thanks to a three-pitch arsenal and a feel for throwing strikes. (He threw only the slider, and not the changeup, during his debut.) The most encouraging sign from Weathers’ outing might’ve been that he sat around 95 mph. That’s a few ticks higher than his norm, and is significantly better than what he showed after returning from an arm injury last season.

Weathers’ call to the Show is a touch more surprising than McClanahan’s, if only because he probably would’ve opened this season in High-A if the minors had been operational. Even so, the buzz around the industry the last several weeks had the Padres promoting him and MacKenzie Gore to aid their chances of a deep postseason run. 

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