Name: Wynn Pelzer
DOB: June 23, 1986
A ninth-round pick in 2007, Pelzer chose not to sign and went to the Cape Cod League with an eye on improving his draft stock. Unfortunately, a liner hit by Allan Dykstra fractured his kneecap and ended his year. He signed with the Padres but did not pitch in 2007.
Pelzer was sent to the Midwest League to begin his professional career. Kept to a stricter pitch count because of his limited innings the year before, Pelzer went 9-6 with a 3.19 ERA. Pelzer held opponents to two runs or less while going five plus innings nine times on the year but was kept to 4.45 innings per start.
"We were very careful with him," Fort Wayne manager Doug Dascenzo said. "We skipped him some starts, we got him on the back end of the rotation in August with some off days and just doing five innings."
"I think Wynn Pelzer is my biggest pleasant surprise," Padres roving pitching coordinator Mike Couchee said. " When we decided to send him to Fort Wayne to start the year, I thought that was a little bit quick based on the lack of innings he had in college, coming off the knee injury. I just thought it was going to be a little fast for him. I think working out of that eight-man was real beneficial for him just to get his feet wet."
Across 29 games, including 23 starts, Pelzer held the opposition to a .248 average. He gave up fewer hits than innings pitched and struck out 7.63 batters per nine innings.
"Wynn had a very good year for us," Fort Wayne pitching coach Tom Bradley said. "He was on an, obviously, an innings total, because last year in South Carolina, we had this policy that we don't want you throwing more than 50% of the innings you pitched in college. He only threw like 50 innings. We really watched what he did over the last month. We shut him down I think for 7-8 days between starts. He really put himself on the map. I know Grady and Bob Cluck, they think an awful lot of him, thought a lot of him in spring training and then as the season progressed even more so."
Pelzer had a nearly 2-to-1 ground ball to fly ball ratio, notching nine double play grounders. He held the opposition to a .219 average with runners in scoring position.
Left-handed hitters batted .298 off him while righties were limited to a .200 average.
The right-hander made one appearance for Lake Elsinore during the regular season, giving up three earned runs in his lone inning of work. He went on to work 7.1 scoreless frames during the postseason, giving up just one hit and a walk while fanning four.
Pelzer has a low-90s fastball that can touch 94 mph with late life and a lot of sink. His ball has natural run away from a right-hander – thrown via a two-seam grip. He throws the two-seamer 90 percent of the time, sporadically tossing a four-seamer up in the zone – a ball that can reach 96 mph.
"He's got electric stuff," Bradley said. "His fastball really, really runs to the inner part of the plate against right-handed hitters. That will serve him well pitching against lefties, it's just natural movement. He's got anywhere from, usually his fastball is above average, 91 – 93, 94."
"We had seen this type of velocity from him when we scouted him last year, but then he got hurt and wasn't able to go through the short-season or instructs," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "This guy has been as electric as anyone in our system with velocity, location and a good slider. He's been nothing short of impressive."
The South Carolina native isn't afraid to come inside and has no fear of missing off the plate, witnessed by the 15 batters he plunked. He sets the tone with the placement of his fastball, working it in and out to get ahead.
He has an electric slider with tight spin and sweeping action that dives out of the zone. It is extremely effective against right-handed hitters, as it gets them diving out for the ball. He continues to set the hitter up by pounding fastballs inside to setup the slider away – getting a lot of weakly hit balls when they do make contact.
Dropping the split-fingered fastball for the more traditional changeup took some time. Pelzer bought in early on but struggled with the command and speed of the pitch. As the season progressed, it became evident that his trust and confidence in the pitch vaulted upwards. He began to throw it consistently with positive results – flashing plus potential, at times. It is a pitch he can use to combat left-handers – one that goes away from their wheelhouse.
"He was another one who hadn't had good confidence in the changeup," Dascenzo said. "All of these guys come in here, not only the pitchers, but the hitters too, they come in here and they're always going to fall back to what's comfortable to them; what made them have success in college. Let's face it, that's what got them here. The trick is to get them to believe that you need to do these things in professional ball this way or tweak a pitch or add a pitch there so you can get guys out at the major league level. It takes some time with guys.
"Wynn, I think, truly understands that now. He was kind of like Jeremy McBride in a sense where he didn't throw a whole lot of changeups in the beginning. But, he had some great starts. This kid is gifted with a great arm and really worked on his delivery and threw some outstanding, outstanding games. This is a guy that we're going to keep our eye on in the future."
"His slider is an out pitch, it's very hard," Bradley said. "I think sometimes he gets slider happy, but it's a very, very useful out pitch for him. So, he's got two pitches that are out pitches right there and his changeup, which he didn't even throw last year.
"He didn't really have the luxury of working on the changeup very much. He came to spring training and started throwing it and really, really improved a lot. He's still got work to do on it. It's still sometimes too hard, but he really came a long way throwing that pitch."
Mixing his pitches well, Pelzer keeps the opposition off-balance. His penchant for throwing the ball low in the zone ensures that he won't get beat by the long ball very often. While he has strikeout type stuff, he prefers the opposition put the ball in play via the ground.
"This kid just has this ability to take things in and make adjustments very quickly," Couchee said. "He's a sponge. He listens and really learns and takes things out that you ask him to take out. He's probably the biggest pleasant surprise that I've seen."
Pelzer needs to work on varying his looks to first base to keep runners close. He doesn't have a good move to first and is a little slow getting the ball to home. He and his catchers caught just 6-of-29 runners attempting to steal.
The South Carolina alumnus gained a lot of poise and confidence, as the year progressed. His personality began to show and his comfort level on the hill increased. He has impeccable makeup and a burning desire to be successful.
"He's a great kid, a great teammate, keeps everybody loose, good personality," Bradley said. "Keeps everybody upbeat, never know what he's going to do next, just a real good person. Fun to be around, good teammate."
"We knew he had a good arm," Padres director of minor league operations Mike Wickham said. "He came in and had the knee issue so he didn't pitch that first year. He has an arm. He has a nasty slider. He is very intelligent. He has a good sense of humor, is well-spoken and intelligent.
"I think he is going to be in that Lake Elsinore rotation and we are excited about we have there."
Conclusion: Pelzer had a successful debut professional season and will be pushed. He has the mental aptitude to make a quick ascent within the system and the stuff to back it up.
Pelzer profiles as a solid number two arm that can keep the opposition off the bases with strikeouts or get his fielders involved with groundouts. The progression of the changeup will ultimately decide his ceiling. Right now, he is ahead of schedule with two dynamite pitches and the potential for a third.
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