Every player processes the news of their first big league call up differently. Some whoop and holler. Some suppress the excitement and act as if they expected it all along.
Right-hander Joe Wieland, however, experienced an outpouring of emotion in the Tucson Padres dugout when he learned of his promotion to the Padres’ big league club. He broke down crying and began hugging all of his teammates that surrounded him.
Wieland is expected to make his first major league start on Saturday evening on the road against a division rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 22-year-old pitcher came to the Padres organization last season from Texas in the Mike Adams trade. His stuff will not overpower anyone, but his command and pitchability have always been well above average on the mound. In fact, at the time of the trade last summer, Wieland had only walked four batters in 85.2 innings for Myrtle Beach, Texas’ High-A affiliate in the California League, and had struck out 96.
He features a high-80s, low-90s fastball that comes at the opposing batter relatively straight. Last fall, his fastball reportedly touched 94-95 MPH, but it generally sits a few ticks lower on the gun. Because the pitch lacks significantly life, Wieland relies on changing speeds and spotting the fastball on the corners with precision. Baseball America writes in their 2012 Prospect Handbook that he also throws an overhand curveball, a changeup, and occasionally a slider.
For Wieland’s career, the trade from Texas to San Diego proved to be a huge blessing. Not only was he traded to an organization that provided more upward mobility and a more aggressive developmental timeline to reach the major leagues, but he also found himself in a stadium that should better suit his style on the mound.
Pitchers who do not possess a plus fastball and rely mostly on command and deception do not always fare well at the big league level, especially those command pitchers who posted a 38.6% groundball rate in the minor leagues last season. That combination screams high home run rate. Petco Park, however, suppresses home runs. In 2011, Petco ranked 23rd amongst 30 ballparks in terms of home run rate. On the other hand, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington — where Wieland hypothetically would have pitched had he not been traded — ranked number one in home run rate by a wide margin.
ZiPS projects Wieland to compile a 4.06 ERA over 146.1 innings of work at the big league level this year. While not Rookie of the Year material in the National League, it’s certainly very valuable for a small market team searching for cost-controlled talent, especially considering the fact that the average ERA for a starting pitcher in 2011 was exactly 4.06.
It is unclear how long Wieland will remain in the big leagues this season. The Padres are scrambling to fill the shoes of Dustin Moseley and Tim Stauffer, who both currently sit on the 15-day DL. When both right-handers return to the starting rotation, Wieland could very simply be sent down to Triple-A to slow his service clock and to avoid rushing him to the big league level before he has even proven the ability to dominate Triple-A hitters.
Eventually, Joe Wieland profiles to be a solid fourth or fifth starter at the big league level. He could post a few above-average seasons and be considered a third starter at times. Pitching in Petco Park should aid him in his transition to the big leagues, though, limiting his home run rate and allowing him to learn at the big league level with more leeway than he would have otherwise gotten in Texas.
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