Height: 6’3” Weight: 175
One of the interesting things we get to do as fans; is evaluate the types of players that each MLB organization chooses to build around. Often the players that a team acquires provide great insight into the organizational philosophy being utilized by that team’s management. A case in point is the trade from last year where highly regarded relief pitcher Mike Adams was traded away from the San Diego Padres to the Texas Rangers for starting pitcher prospects Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland. From the Padres perspective, they received two interesting prospects with similar skill sets that seem to indicate a unifying belief in how they wish to develop the team going forward. Let’s take a look at one those prospects and evaluate his professional career in the context of this trade.
Joe Wieland was chosen in 4th round, as the 123rd overall pick of 2008 amateur draft by the Texas Rangers. Three full seasons of ball professional later, his performance and numbers are showing great improvement and deserving of an in-depth look. After playing for 3 different teams (and 2 different organizations) Wieland finished the 2011 season with a 13-4 win/loss record. Sporting 1.97 era after logging 155.2 innings-pitched, there is simply little that one can complain about in terms of statistics. He was tough on his competition by tallying 150 strikeouts in 155.2 innings of work. But even more impressive was the stingy 21 free passes in that same 155.2 innings. His control is absolutely outstanding and is the foundation for any success that he will experience in the future. That being said, let’s take a look at his the offerings that have carried him into the prospect discussion.
Fastball – Joe Wieland’s overall pitching success is predicated on his fastball. Wieland uses this pitch to set up all of his other offerings. Surprisingly the fastball is only a major league average pitch. Velocity typically stays in 89-92 mph range, but he can get up to 94 on occasion. There isn’t anything particularly impressive about this offering. However, this pitch plays up because of his outstanding command. He is able to move this pitch anywhere in the zone.
Slider – The slider is a major league below average pitch. Yet it is effective as a contrast to his fastball. It sits in the mid 80’s in velocity and has a nice break compared to the straight on path of his fastball. The main usage of the slider is to keep batters from cheating on the fastball.
Curve – This pitch is likely the most promising element of Wieland’s game. The curve creates a nice variation in speed from his fastball. This offering typically sits in the 80-82mph range. Though it isn’t hard to recognize this pitch coming out of his hands, he has the ability to use this pitch in 2 ways. Wieland is able to throw this pitch with control in the strike zone, or he can bury it in the dirt to get the batter to chase it. This is almost like having 2 separate pitches from the same grip and delivery. Wieland uses this pitch very effectively.
Change – Wieland comes at hitters with another offering that he has been working hard to develop. The change provides the greatest velocity contrast to the fastball and is seen in the 79-82mph range. The movement is still being developed but plays up with its nice variance from the slider and fastball.
Joe Wieland stands at 6’3” but doesn’t necessarily get strong downward plane on the ball. In fact, he is more of a fly ball pitcher rather than a ground ball pitcher, as evidenced by the 35-45% ground ball rate seen in the last 2 seasons of work. His delivery is fairly smooth and lacks that sense of high effort. Sometimes his follow through looks like it lacks the strong push towards the plate that helps with velocity. This can also lead to pitches being left up in the zone, which is something that Wieland has to be extremely mindful of especially as he faces higher levels of competition.
There isn’t anything to suggest arm or shoulder problems. His release is very consistent and lends itself to strong control of his pitches. With his highly repeatable throwing motion one gets the sense that Wieland can eat innings, despite a wiry slender build.
A common refrain that is heard in regards to Wieland is that he has a great “feel” for pitching. The consistent throwing motion allows Wieland to throw with a lot of confidence. He understands his pitching strengths and uses them to their full potential. This should continue to show up in his k/bb ratios as he continues to learn how to higher levels of competition.
Scouts don’t tend to give Joe Wieland a lot of love. Reason being, he lacks the physical tools to throw with high velocity and lacks an elite offering. As a result, Wieland is never going to be a sexy player that gets scouts or fans excited to watch him. However, there are markers to suggest that he could be a very effective pitcher. Based on a solid and repeatable delivery and strong component ratios, Wieland’s arsenal might just be better than the sum of its’ parts. With a strong feel for his pitches and intelligent approach to the game, Wieland has the ability to expand the strike zone and keep hitters off-balance.
Wieland is likely to start in Double-A ball for the 2012 season, but a mid-season promotion is a strong possibility. With his advanced approach relative to his age, he needs to be challenged by better competition. He is probably going to be a fast riser in the organization and his Major League ETA is probably mid to late 2013. Wieland is an interesting player for the Padres to acquire because he has a skill-set that can succeed well at Petco Park. Given Wieland’s unwillingness to issue walks and fly ball tendencies, Petco will allow his stuff to play up much more than it would at other parks. With the acquisition of Wieland and Erlin from the late-season trade in 2011, it seems that the Padres are identifying players that fit nicely in their playing environment. This move was good for not only the Padres, but should also greatly benefit Joe Wieland.
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