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April 11, 2012

The Call-Up

Joe Wieland

by Kevin Goldstein

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​Hi everyone. I'm happy to announce a new series at Baseball Prospectus and ESPN: The Call-Up. When notable players get that call to the big leagues, I'll provide a primer on them to let you know where they've come from, how they got here, and what they can do, both immediately and over the long haul. We hope you enjoy this addition to our content slate.

The situation: With both Tim Stauffer (triceps) and Dustin Moseley (shoulder) on the shelf with injuries, pitching prospect Joe Wieland, a 22-year-old right-hander, was pulled after two scoreless innings Tuesday night at Triple-A and is expected to make his major league debut Saturday versus the Dodgers.

Background: A fourth-round pick by the Texas Rangers in the 2009 draft out of a Nevada high school, Wielend has spent the early part of his pro career fighting off a reputation of being much more of a pitcher than a guy with big league stuff. He compiled 206 strikeouts against just 49 walks in 231 innings over his first two full seasons, but he also had a 4.52 ERA over that time, with much of that attributed to his lack of a "put-away" pitch. But in 2011, he suddenly found an extra 2-4 ticks on his fastball and proceeded to have a breakout campaign. Moved up to Double-A at midseason, Wieland posted a 1.23 ERA in seven starts for Frisco, and his scouting reports matched the numbers. What was once an average fastball was now consistently sitting in the low 90s while touching 94-95. His increased value made him a trade chip, and he was traded along with Robbie Erlin to the San Diego Padres at the deadline for reliever Mike Adams. Erlin was seen as the better prospect at the time, but those roles might have switched, and not because of anything Erlin did wrong. Rather, Wieland's strong spring earned a promotion to Triple-A to begin the year, and he has received an early call-up.

What he can do: Wieland attacks hitters with his newfound velocity. His fastball sits primarily in the 90-93 mph range, or a bit higher when he reaches back for more. His average curveball flashes plus at times, and his changeup is solid. All of his pitches play up because of his ability to locate them like a veteran. He works both sides of the plate, and can add and subtract from his fastball while also adding cutting or sinking action. He repeats his simple delivery exceptionally well, and maintains his stuff deep into games.

Immediate big league future: Wieland's outstanding control is likely one of the reasons the Padres called on him. There's little chance of him "imploding" in any one start, and he should be able to battle big league hitters from the get-go. However, it's hard to see him dominating immediately, as he'll need to learn how to make both his stuff, and his style of pitching, work in the major leagues. At least Chavez Ravine is a good place to pitch, and his home park even more so, which should help his numbers significantly.

Long-term projection: Wieland's upside is as a good No. 3 starter. He should have an average strikeout rate with an above-average WHIP, thanks to his ability to avoid walks, and pitching half his games at Petco will help his ERA significantly. "I think he will be fine in that park," said a National League talent evaluator. "He's better than Stauffer or Moseley or a lot of guys that have found some success there."

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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