Just as we’ve done previously with Chris Hatcher, Yasmani Grandal, and Enrique Hernandez, we’ll continue walking through the new Dodgers with righty pitcher Joe Wieland, 25 in January, and a 4th-round pick of the Rangers out of a Reno high school in 2008. Wieland pitched in the Texas system through 2011, when he was sent to San Diego along with Robbie Erlin for veteran reliever Mike Adams, throwing a no-hitter in Double-A two days before the trade. In 2012, he made two starts in Triple-A before being called up to join the San Diego rotation after Tim Stauffer and Dustin Moseley got hurt. (You probably don’t remember this — I know I didn’t — but his major league debut came at Dodger Stadium on April 14, 2012. He gave up two homers to Matt Kemp. I’m not sure that’s a sign I’m happy to hear about.) Unfortunately, he made only five starts that year before going on the disabled list, ultimately ending up with Tommy John surgery.
That ruined his 2012 and erased his 2013, because soreness in the elbow led to setbacks in 2013, and he eventually underwent another surgery (though not another Tommy John) on the elbow in April of 2014, which cost him more time. Finally, two years and two months after last throwing a pitch, Wieland returned to a mound in July of 2014, working his way through the minors and making four September appearances (two starts) for the Padres. In his age 22-24 seasons, he pitched all of 83.7 professional innings. That’s not ideal, although while it’s a big concern, it’s also not like having a Tommy John on your record instantly eliminates any chance of being successful.
With that kind of a track record, it’s difficult to really look at his performance, because he’s missed just so much time. The few scouting reports still out there all say basically the same thing, which is that he’s a flyball pitcher and a very good control artist, an assertion backed up by a 444/86 K/BB in 476.2 minor league innings. When the trade was announced, ESPN’s Keith Law said that Wieland “has the size and mix of stuff to be a solid fourth starter if he’s over his arm issues,” and while that’s maybe unexciting, it’s not without value, either.
For example, here’s his comment from BP2012:
Wieland came to San Diego in the Mike Adams deal. Like Robbie Erlin, who also was part of the package, Wieland is an obsessive strike thrower. He boasts a 5.1 K/BB in 430 1/3 career minor-league innings. His stuff isn’t overpowering but he has a clean delivery and strong command of a low-90s fastball, backed up by a plus curveball. His changeup remains a work in progress. Wieland is yet another fly-ball pitcher, which could be problematic in Tucson but which ultimately won’t keep him from settling in at the back of the Padres rotation sometime in 2013.
Let’s start off with an interview he gave in July of 2012, including some kind words about Dodger Stadium and talking about a streak of 227 consecutive batters without a walk in the minors:
Wieland throws four pitches — here’s what they look like when they’re going well. Obviously, I’m cherry-picking swings and misses. This doesn’t always happen.
Here’s his fastball getting past Charlie Blackmon in September…
…his curve making Emilio Bonifacio look silly in 2012…
…and Blackmon flailing away at Wieland’s change.
Wieland only threw his slider once in his 2014 return, likely opting not to risk his arm while attempting just to make it back, but he does have one, shown here getting past then-Marlin Hanley Ramirez back in 2012:
So you have a young righty pitcher with several good pitches who may not have a true out pitch… and yeah, that does sound a bit like Zach Lee. Wieland’s already made the big leagues and has better control than Lee does; on the other hand, he’s had a lot more arm problems as well.
So really, the outlook on Wieland may lie in what you expect out of him. He’s not going to be an ace and he’s not going to front your rotation. If he can stay healthy, he can provide you some league-average work, most likely. Sound unexciting? It does, and he’s probably the least interesting (in my view) of all the players acquired from San Diego and Miami. But if that sounds like I’m down on him or don’t want him, that’s not accurate. When the Dodgers need to dip into the system to call up reinforcements (Wieland has two options remaining, so he’ll likely start in Triple-A to build arm strength), you’ll be happy when it’s Wieland and not Red Patterson or Kevin Correia or Roberto Hernandez. Sometimes, it’s not about excitement. It’s about good, solid depth. Wieland, if his arm doesn’t completely fly off his body, is a guy you’re happy to have as your 6th or 7th best starter.