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When the Dodgers *finally* traded Matt Kemp to the Padres, there was a lot of reaction, a lot of backlash, a lot of hand wringing. It felt like a 1-1 swap, Matt Kemp for Yasmani Grandal in a salary dump. Almost as if the success of one will directly take away from the shortcomings of the other this upcoming season. If Grandal struggles, you can bet people will be upset, if Kemp excels, expect the same reaction. However there are two pitchers being exchanged in the trade, and while Zach Eflin is on his way to the Phillies in the Jimmy Rollins deal, the Dodgers are getting their own youngish starting pitcher in the trade.
Joe Wieland is a 24 year old pitcher out of Reno, Nevada. He throws right handed, stands 6′ 3”, and weighs 210 pounds. Drafted in the 4th round of the 2008 MLB draft, he has been involved in 2 major trades in his short major league career, one being the Mike Adams trade to the Rangers, and the other being the Matt Kemp to the Padres.
Wieland has a solid pedigree, ranked as having the best command in the Padres system in 2012 and 2013 by Baseball America, he peaked at 74th on Baseball Prospectus’s top prospect list in 2012. He has a fastball in the low-mid 90’s, throws a solid changeup and a good curveball, and had this super optimistic scouting report written about him in 2012:
"6) Joe Wieland, RHP, Grade B+: Hard to believe they got Wieland and Erlin for Mike Adams. Like Robbie, Joe’s fastball plays past it’s velocity due to terrific command and impressive secondary pitches."
So this all sounds good, but why was he somewhat of a throw-in when he was dealt for Matt Kemp? Well he underwent tommy john surgery midway through the 2012 season. After the fact his prospect star plummeted to a C+, having nothing written about him, however Sickels did include this interesting tidbit about him in the comment section
"I always downgrade significantly for Tommy John. Healthy Wieland is a strong B for me. I never assume TJ recovery will be automatic."
This is a pretty optimistic view on Wieland, and granted, that he didn’t exactly take a step forward during 2014. -In fact, Wieland got struck with additional elbow issues but thankfully avoided tommy john surgery- He has the top prospect pedigree, and that always counts for something.
There are actual numbers that back up Wieland’s scouting reports. Who would have thought? Because I don’t care to use 39 big league innings to judge a player, especially since those are found over the span of two season, i’ll use his minor league stats. Joe has walked a total of 86 batters in 1970 career batters faced in the minor leagues. This comes out to a ridiculous 1.6 BB/9. This falls right in line with the control oriented pitchers the front office is acquiring nowadays (Chris Hatcher, Joel Peralta, Brandon McCarthy)
Sometimes good control guys tend to be mediocre command guys, but Wieland has given up 30 home runs in 1970 batters faced which means a 0.6 HR/9 given up. The only thing left to prove is whether he can post above average BABIP figures, I like to think that there is a certain skill that goes into measuring limiting hits and that is directly evidenced by how well a pitcher commands his pitches.
Wieland isn’t any slouch in the striking people out department either, K’ing 8.4 per 9 innings in his return from tommy john surgery this season. That falls right in line with his career numbers.
And listen, there are significant questions. He had tommy john surgery in 2013, he had another issue with his elbow during the spring of 2014, he didn’t start really consistently pitching until late this past season. Proving his health going forward is going to be the biggest question for him, but luckily according to pitch fx of fangraphs, he was throwing 95 miles per hour in the final start of the season, averaging close to 93 MPH for the entire game. It might be unfair to peg him down as healthy, but he sure seems physically fit. Here’s some video of him during that start
Pretty good, huh? That curveball seems more than just useable, he was sitting 90-94, he was inducing grounders at a good clip, there are things to work with here.
So remember the 6,900 word post on the Dodgers defense the other day? Well here’s a starting pitcher who doesn’t walk anybody, doesn’t give up many home runs, strikes out his fair share of batters, and lets the defense do his work for him. The philosophy I talked about earlier, as far as going after pitchers who limit the walks that they give up makes sense, make good pitches, don’t make mistakes, let your defense work for you.
And for the most recent writeup on Wieland, here’s what Jonathan Mayo said about him today.
He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, with his fastball typically sitting around 90 mph. His curveball is his best secondary pitch and he also mixes in a solid changeup and slider. His four-pitch arsenal and above-average control give him a chance to fit as a starter in the Major Leagues.
With Brett Anderson in the fold, Wieland won’t actually start the season in the major leagues, but the further removed he gets from tommy john surgery, the closer he should return to the 2012 version he was, and that is a very solid pitcher to have in the organization. Given Ryu and McCarthy’s seemingly chronic shoulder issues, Brett Anderson’s chronic everything, then Wieland will certainly make a few starts on the big league team this season if he stays healthy. And for the first time in long time, the Dodgers have good, cheap pitching available, to draw from the minor leagues in case of the inevitable emergency they’ll face.