Name: Bryan Oland
DOB: June 5, 1985
After seeing action in 16 games during his professional debut, posting a 6.30 ERA along the way in the Arizona Rookie League, it was easy to see why the Padres were unsure about sending Oland the full-season ball. Thirty-two hits in 20 innings didn't inspire a lot of faith.
The praise from the coaches working in Peoria was universal, though. On May 22, he was shipped to Fort Wayne and went on to work 13.2 scoreless frames before surrendering his first run. It was one of five earned runs the right-hander would allow on the season.
"I don't know how he's not on the team when we leave spring training," Fort Wayne manager Doug Dascenzo said. "But in any event, he got there, he was there and man, what a story right here."
Spanning 44 appearances and 51 innings, Oland compiled a 0.88 ERA. He allowed just 33 hits and walked eight while striking out 64. His 8-to-1 margin of strikeouts-to-walks was second best in the Midwest League among pitchers with 50 or more innings.
"I don't care what league you're in, if you have an earned run average under 1.00 with all of the appearances he had, he just had an outstanding season," Fort Wayne pitching coach Tom Bradley said. "He was our setup guy, averaged better than a strikeout an inning. All the stats were phenomenal."
Oland tallied 11.29 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. A sensational 1.34 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) led the Midwest League by a large margin among pitchers with 50 or more innings.
Just as important – 84.1 percent of the runners he inherited or reached base on him were left stranded – the third best mark in the circuit. As a reliever, this stat is one of the most important – saying he can be trusted to come in with men on base. Of the 12 runners he inherited only a single one scored.
It was, by all accounts, a season of dominance for the California native. And there is more...
Oland allowed just six extra base hits all season and no ball left the yard on his watch. He limited the opposition to six hits in 41 at-bats with runners in scoring position and right-handed hitters batted .158 – while he held the opposition to a .179 mark overall.
"Here's a guy, starts in extended, and now he's on the team and he's throwing the ball 93-94, sometimes 95 miles an hour," Dascenzo said. "He starts throwing, comes up with this split-finger changeup that almost acts like a float-ball in a sense. It's hard and it dips and it's late. It's really a power trick pitch. He feels he fits the eighth inning role to a ‘T' and could have done the ninth inning closing just as well as Quezada. He's a two-pitch pitcher. He throws a little slider every now and then and probably needs to throw that a little bit more. But, he did a wonderful job. He had a 0.80 ERA. If you have that, then you're doing something."
Oland has a power arm with a fastball that sits comfortably in the low-90s and tops out at 95 mph. He establishes himself early in the count by attacking the zone and pitching inside, setting up the rest of his repertoire.
Last year, after a long college season, Oland was hitting 86-87 mph with the pitch. It wasn't until mid-May that his fastball showed the velocity it had at Sonoma State. He will occasionally try to elevate the heater but has not seen the results he wants from such efforts.
The right-hander adds three-finger changeup that scouts call a spiking changeup that acts like a split-fingered without the added velocity.
"Oland – nobody knew who this guy was," Padres pitching coordinator Mike Couchee said. "He was another guy that started the year out in extended spring. Once he got out under the lights, he was absolutely phenomenal. He's got a changeup that's a big league pitch."
A plus pitch that has a lot of downward action late in the game, hitters have a tough time holding their swing. Many of his strikeouts came on the changeup – thanks to its out of the zone break. Even when hitters knew it was coming, they would swing over top of the pitch or top it into the dirt.
Oland also has a slider that he uses to keep right-handed hitters honest, occasionally tossing it to left-handers to keep them honest. It has good biting action but could use more consistency within the strike zone.
"Those three pitches, his fastball is anywhere from 91 – 93, sometimes touches 94," Bradley began. "He's a little upright in his delivery; as far as his finish goes, he throws fastballs up a little bit too much and, you know, we've talked to him about it – 93-94 is good up, but it's better down. So, that's something he's going to concentrate and focus on. He can get you out, he gets hitters out, that's the bottom line, he gets hitters out. He's equally good against righties and lefties.
"His slider is probably an average pitch. He throws it against right-handers to get ahead; it's got a little tilt to it.
"But the pitch that separates him from everybody else is the changeup, and it's not a split. He does spread his fingers, and I didn't see anybody in this league square it up too often. That's how he got a lot of his strikeouts by expanding the zone. For me, he's got two above average pitches and he really put himself on the map with the year he had."
A former Tommy John surgery graduate, Oland tossed a lot of innings in his final collegiate campaign and was throwing eight months after surgery. The additional rest from the 2007 season allowed him to sharpen up his stuff and come back strong.
He has a strong mental aptitude and attacks hitters with his best stuff. Pitching ahead in the count, he is able to use his off-speed pitches to get positive results.
"He didn't even make a club out of spring training and came into our league and just dominated," Bradley said. "So, he had a very good year. He's got a bright future too. He's got good days ahead of him."
Conclusion: Oland has two plus pitches with the changeup a true difference maker. He also has terrific mound presence and aggression. He doesn't believe the opposition can hit him and plays to his strengths.
Going to the higher levels will be a challenge, as it will be tough to duplicate the success he had in Fort Wayne. Because all of his pitches are thrown low in the zone, Oland induces a lot of ground balls. That bodes well for his bright future.
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