Name: Joe Wieland
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: January 21, 1990
Acquired: 2008 Amateur Draft, 4th round
The feature (top) portion of this story was taken from this interview with Wieland, which was originally posted on November 8, 2010.
Right-hander Joe Wieland raised his stock and made significant strides after his promotion to High-A Bakersfield last season, though it didn't always show up in the statistics.
After posting a 3.34 ERA in 15 starts at Single-A Hickory, Wieland logged 59 innings with Bakersfield and had a 5.19 ERA. He was a bit more hittable––yielding 67 hits in 59 innings––but still threw strikes (10 walks) and missed more bats (62 strikeouts).
During his time with the Blaze, Wieland's walk rate improved from 4.2% to 3.9%, and his strikeout rate rose from 19.9% to 24%.
The 21-year-old had more than his share of issues immediately after his promotion to the Cal League. In his first five starts with the club, he surrendered 27 runs on 42 hits in only 26 innings (9.35 ERA), despite walking just five and striking out 29.
The rough start caused Wieland to make a few adjustments. He was admittedly relying too heavily on his fastball, so he began showing his curveball earlier in the game.
"I wasn't a guy that liked to go to my offspeed pitch early in a game or early in a count," Wieland said. "There were times in Hickory where I didn't use my curveball until the fifth inning. When I got to Bakersfield, I tried to pitch the same way that I did in Hickory. And I got hit around in the first couple starts because I wasn't going to my offspeed.
"Then I started to go to my offspeed early in counts and early in games. I started getting more consistent with it and my results started to show. The results were getting better."
As Wieland learned from his mistakes, he began to see drastic improvement.
Over his final six outings, the Reno native yielded only seven earned runs in 33 frames (1.91 ERA), giving up 25 hits, walking five, and fanning 33. Included in that stretch were two absolute gems. Wieland fanned 14 batters over seven shutout innings on August 3, and he tossed seven innings of one-hit ball just three weeks later.
While the former fourth-round pick lacks a dominant front-line arsenal, he projects as a durable strike-thrower with solid-average stuff, plus command, and a feel for pitching. The complete package could make Wieland a middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.
Before he can reach that ceiling, though, Wieland knows he'll need to continue refining his changeup––a pitch that shows promise but remains inconsistent.
"I still feel like I didn't get (the changeup) to where I would have liked," Wieland said of his 2010 season. "Once I got to Bakersfield, it left me, you could say. I lost the feel because I was throwing my curveball much more.
"That's going to be one thing in spring training that I'm going to work on. I want to get the right grip to slow down the velocity."
Overall, Wieland finished the 2010 campaign with a 4.07 ERA in 148 innings between the two levels. He allowed 151 hits, walked 25, and struck out 133. While currently flying under the radar, his late-season progression could make him a prime 2011 breakout candidate.
Also See: Rangers Minor League Notes (March 15, 2010)
Wieland strong on opening night (April 9, 2010)
Minor League Players of the Month: June (July 2, 2010)
Wieland racking up strikeouts with Blaze (August 4, 2010)
Minor League Players of the Month: August (September 2, 2010)
Wieland satisfied with late-season strides (November 8, 2010)
Seven teams, seven sleepers (December 26, 2010)
Top Prospects, Top Tools (January 14, 2011)
Repertoire: Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.
Fastball: The 21-year-old's velocity was a bit inconsistent last season, as he worked at 88-91 mph in some starts and 91-93 (touching 94) in others. When fully developed, Wieland projects to work more consistently at 91-93. He gets good late life on the pitch, making it difficult to square up low in the zone. The righty profiles for plus command and control, although the command isn't there quite yet. He keeps the walks to an absolute minimum and made progress in terms of throwing quality strikes down the stretch last year.
Other Pitches: Wieland's curveball was inconsistent early last season but began to look like a future 60-grade (plus) offering after his promotion to Bakersfield. While with the Blaze, he began throwing the pitch much more often and it gained consistency. The hard-breaking curve clocks in at around 80-83 mph with downward bite and good depth.
While he has a feel for the changeup, his command of the pitch can be spotty. The low-80s change has good tumbling action to match his fastball, creating some deception. Wieland believes the pitch can be a bit too firm at times, but it should be an average offering with a little more seasoning.
Projection: Wieland projects as a durable number three or four starter in the big leagues. He has a solid 6-foot-3 frame with a strong lower half, and his above-average athleticism helps him repeat a clean delivery. At full development, the prospect should possess fringe-plus velocity to go along with two workable secondary pitches and a plus command-control mix. His pitchabilty and projected command should help the stuff play up a tick. He will need to continue improving the changeup, as it currently lags behind the other two offerings.
2011 Outlook: Wieland finished the 2010 campaign on a strong note at High-A Bakersfield, and there's a good chance he'll return to that level to start 2011. However, the Frisco rotation is far from packed and Wieland's late-season success should allow him to compete for a Double-A spot this spring. Even if the hurler breaks camp with Myrtle Beach, he figures to have the opportunity to reach the Texas League by the All-Star break.
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