Name: Bryan Oland
DOB: June 5, 1985
A 24th-round selection in 2007, Oland saw 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 during extended spring training the following season. 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.
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.
"He has come out of nowhere," roving pitching coordinator Mike Couchee said. "He was kind of left out in extended. We needed help, we sent him out, and he has absolutely run with it."
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.
The Sonoma State alumnus would be challenged in 2009 with a trip to the hitter-friendly California League.
Oland compiled a 7-2 record with a 3.10 ERA along with 28 saves in 33 opportunities across 53 games for Lake Elsinore. In 58 innings, he allowed 53 hits, walked 13 and struck out 68.
Eleven of his saves opportunities spanned more than one inning – a rarity in this day and age of specialists. It was a testament to the staffs' faith in his abilities to seal the deal.
Stranding 15 of the 22 runners he inherited also spoke volumes. If the team needed to secure the win, Oland was the guy they called upon to shore things up. Forget about starting an inning fresh – he was in on every situation. That strategy seemed to backfire a bit in late July when he seemed to tire from overuse. Oland allowed runs in five of his six outings, giving up two of the three homers he would allow all season while blowing three saves. He allowed runs in just six of his other 47 appearances.
"The games that he had that were bad, games that were about half his ERA, were games that were non-save situations," Lake Elsinore pitching coach Dave Rajsich said. "He doesn't pitch well in a non-save situation. He just kind of goes through the motions, the mind-set just doesn't happen. That happens to relievers, to closers especially.
"It could be our fault for doing that to him; but there's two ways to look at it. You're trying to get him to learn to pitch in the eighth inning, seventh inning, because as he moves up he may not do the closer, but he's got to be able to learn how to pitch not only as a closer but also learn to pitch in a set up situation or set up as a middle guy and maybe go more than just one inning, maybe just an inning and 2/3 or two innings. I just think that the combination of all those things just kind of built up on him. You take away those games where it was a non-save situation and I bet you the ERA drops down in the ones."
During the months of May and June, Oland posted a 0.40 ERA across 22.2 innings. He held the opposition to a .244 average on a season where he ranked fifth in the league in appearances. He was also third in the California League in strikeouts per nine innings (10.55), fourth in fewest base runners per nine innings (10.55) and fifth, amongst relievers, in walks per nine innings (1.71).
Oland's 2.30 FIP was tied for second best in the league amongst all pitchers with at least 50 innings while his 5.23 strikeout-to-walk ratio was fifth best in the circuit.
"He has good stuff, throws a hard sinker and good splitter," former Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "He may be a little upright in his finish, which I think may have hurt him some later in the year."
The California native throws a sinking fastball that rarely meets the heart of the plate. The two-seamer has great downward action that induces ground ball outs. His ability to spot the pitch on either corner and work ahead with the heater allows him to set the tone for the rest of each at-bat. Oland rarely falls behind into a count where the hitter knows what is coming next.
Seeing his velocity dip from 92-94 mph to the 90-92 mph range is a concern, but it also helped the right-hander. It allowed him to turn his focus to his off-speed pitches.
His splitter is a dominant plus-plus pitch that has impressive fade. It bottoms out right when hitters' eyes get big – thinking fastball in the heart of the plate. The batter regrets believing they have a beat on the ball as it drops from view. Oland spots the pitch at will – throwing it for strikes and kissing dirt to get the strikeout.
"He's got that split, sometimes he throws it hard, sometimes he doesn't throw it as hard," Lake Elsinore manager Carlos Lezcano said. "It's like a changeup to go with a low-90s fastball.
"What I like about him is he's not fazed about anything. He just goes in there and goes after the hitter. A lot of people got good arms, but they can't be closers because they can't handle the mental part of it, but he can. He did a very good job all year long."
Improvement on his slider was also evident. Once a two-pitch hurler, the slider has become an average pitch that offsets his fastball/splitter combination nicely. He is able to get nice spin and good tilting action. There are times when it is loopy and consistency with the pitch is needed. When it is on, he has three usable pitches.
"He's very good," Rajsich said. "He was better last year than he is this year because he had more downward tilt to his fastball and it was a little crisper. This year his off-speed pitches are so dominant that these hitters still struggle to catch up to that changeup with the bottom that he's got. The slider is just enough to be good so that when he does have his fastball tilt – he's got all three pitches working. He struck out three up three down and in the ninth a few times, and he hit them with a fastball, slider, and his changeup."
There are times when Oland does not follow through with his delivery and is left standing too tall. He cuts his arm off from finishing and that is when his pitches will elevate. This seemed to happen during July and August but was corrected down the stretch.
One of the demerits against Oland has been his lack of willingness to work harder than those around him. The prevalent thought amongst the staff is that he only does what is necessary and only because he must. In an era where talent is evident everywhere, the competitive edge goes to the player that puts in the extra time to become the best he can be.
"He's not the one who's going to go out and do the extra work," Rajsich said. "He's a little bit on the soft side as far as doing the training and all the extra stuff to stay sharp, the running and all that. He gets it done, but it's because he has to not just because he wants to. That's part of the learning process, I think both him and McBryde learned a lot this year about maintaining because they both kind of broke down."
Oland has strong mental fortitude. It doesn't matter what situation he is in – Oland responds in the same fashion. He has a fearless attitude and does not suffer from the ebb and flow of a long season. His demeanor simply doesn't change.
"The good thing about him is it doesn't matter what situation you put him in, he is the same," Lezcano said. "He has a consistent approach to the game, day in and day out. He has that splitty changeup and he throws a fastball in the low-90s . That changeup he has along with his slider is pretty good. The thing that really stands out about him to me, though, is just how calm he is, in any situation. Three run lead, one run lead, tie game runner on third; it's all the same to him. "The mental approach you see from him is of a closer in the big leagues, not an A-ball pitcher."
"For his role, he has the perfect mentality," Couchee said. "Nothing bothers this guy. You wouldn't know if he just gave up 10 (runs) or just punched out eight in a row. He keeps taking the ball and going out and getting them out. He has put himself on the map."
Conclusion: Oland is a tough competitor on the hill and has the stuff to back it up. His splitter is a difference maker. To reach San Diego, however, he must also dedicate himself to the game by doing the extra work that comes before the game. Is the loss of velocity due to his lack of discipline pre-game? Oland must not only do what is required but also take the extra steps to reach the ultimate goal.
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