Scouting Padres Prospect Wynn Pelzer

Everyone believes San Diego Padres prospect Wynn Pelzer is a big leaguer in waiting. Whether he makes it as a starter or reliever is yet to be determined, largely by his ability to master one more pitch.

Vital Statistics;
Name: Wynn Pelzer
Position: RHP
DOB: June 23, 1986
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 200
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

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. 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.

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 was back in the California League in 2009 pitching for the Storm. The right-hander went 11-8 with a 3.94 ERA across 27 starts. In 150.2 innings he allowed 134 hits, walked 59 and struck out 147. He held the opposition to a .244 average and induced eight double play grounders while netting a 2-to-1 ground ball to fly ball ratio.

"He's got such a good arm and a lot of movement on his fastball," Lake Elsinore manager Carlos Lezcano said. "He's another guy that needs to work on that fastball command. The last two outings he had he threw two seven-strong innings, one against San Jose and the last one against Rancho Cucamonga and then we got eliminated in the playoffs."

The staff moved Wynn Pelzer to the third base side of the rubber in the second half of the season and his pitches improved, posting a 2.83 ERA in 13 starts after the All-Star break.

"I think he had five starts from that side, and we had to convince him to do it," Lake Elsinore pitching coach Dave Rajsich said. "I think what was the factor was (Mike) Couchee was there one day, and the first day he arrives he sits in the stands, he doesn't let anybody know he's there, and he was sitting up in the stands high at our ballpark, and he was sitting right behind home plate, and he could see the front shoulder fly open, and how the hitter could see his arm so easily from that side of the rubber. I had been talking to him before about it for like two months and he'd resisted the fact because he did throw a sideline like that in college and it doesn't work. Because Couchee said, ‘Yeah, he needs to move.' And (Tony) Muser, I talked to him about it and he said, ‘Yeah, you've got to get him to go. You've got to get him to move it.'

"Muser talked to him and I don't know if he threatened him or whatever, but next time he threw a sideline he was warming up on the first base side and I said, ‘Gosh, here we go again.'

"Then all of a sudden halfway through he moved over, and he was experimenting five from this side, and five from that side. I didn't say anything, and I just watched him."

He ended up placing fifth in the California League in ERA, second in strikeouts, but fifth in walks allowed. His 1.28 WHIP was fifth best in the circuit and his average against was fourth while his 8.48 strikeouts per nine innings ranked fourth as well. His 3.30 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) ranked fifth in the league.

"I think fastball command and the changeup are the issues," former pitching consultant Bob Cluck said. "He's got a world-class slider. If we let him, he'd throw that every pitch and he'd dominate, no matter how long his career would be. But we force-feed the changeup to all of our starting pitchers, and we demand, we ask for 20 percent, we settle for 15 percent, of the pitches to be changeups. And Pelzer has done okay with that. He hasn't fully embraced it like some others, and in my opinion, it's held him back some."

The University of South Carolina alumnus has a low-90s fastball that he can dial up to 95-96 mph. It is a pitch with heavy sinking action from a two-seam grip. There are times when it has more lateral movement but the moving to the third base side of the rubber has allowed him to finish the pitch out in front and gain a more consistent sink.

The move to the third base side also improved what was already a plus slider. Because his finish is more fluid and he doesn't push the ball, he can stay on top of the slider to get it to spin hard and tight away from right-handers while wrapping around the back leg of a left-hander. It is a strikeout weapon.

"I just watched the balls just like I did with (Craig) Italiano, and he's got such great life, he has so much lateral movement with his ball throwing from the first base side that the ball has a tendency to run because you can throw it from behind you, you can push it to the plate," Rajsich said. "Well, the ball's up and it has lateral movement. When you move over to third base side, you've got to finish the pitch more, which makes you push your hand through the ball and now you're going to get more sink and less lateral movement, and the right-handers can't see the ball coming out of his hand as well.

"I told him, ‘As you get higher up, The first of the year you were 5-1 (record), now all of a sudden you are 5-6. The hitters have adjusted to you and know what you've got. Your slider comes in straight to the plate and breaks it and you leave it up and it kind of belly's up and it just hangs. If you move to this side you've already created the instant angle, and then when it breaks it's still sharp and they don't have a chance.'

"He was able to survive to this level pitching off the opposite side. He's had great success and it's tough to try and convince the guy until he fails to move."

The right-hander has struggled with gaining consistency with his changeup. His confidence with the pitch has never been strong, and the location has been hit and miss. He does not repeat the same arm action as his fastball and grips the ball too tightly, causing less of a break and the rock coming in too hard.

There are some who believe that he should bring back the splitter he threw in college and the new regime may be more open to that possibility. It was a pitch he had confidence in and flashed tremendous break out of the zone. It wasn't necessarily a pitch he could throw strikes with, but hitters had a tough time laying off it because of the late break.

Pelzer is a tinkerer and never satisfied with the results. He is always changing one thing or another, and that has led to a lot of his inconsistency. His delivery seems to change so often that he is re-learning its nuances each time he takes the bump.

"The big thing with Wynn was calming his delivery down, bringing more timing and rhythm to it," former Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "He has a lot of fast twitch muscles; the key is to get everything in the right spot as he is accelerating. His fastball is moving everywhere in the strike zone. There is so much movement in his arm.

"Wynn is a bit on tinkerer, so we are getting closer to getting more things solidified. His change is coming. He has a strong, durable, and really electric arm, and his slider is also developing."

"He's a little stubborn, but I'll tell you when he made the move (to the third base side of the rubber), he noticed it," Rajsich said. "All the games, except for the walks were, there were like three of them that were shutouts. It was pretty damn impressive. But the walks and getting the comfort and the feel for it. As he moves to higher levels, the hitters are going to get better, and the angle is going to be critical for his success. He has got electric stuff and I think it is just going to get better from that side, but he had to experience it."

One thing that he will have to master is fastball command. He has one of the more electric arms in the system with terrific run on his two-seam fastball and a power slider. His changeup hasn't reached the point where he is always comfortable with it and that will be the key component of his future success as a starter – or the re-introduction of the splitter.

"He's got such a great arm and he's very athletic, and again a world-class slider," Cluck said. "So it's something to build on.

"There's no doubt in my mind he'll compete in Double-A next year. Our biggest problem with Wynn is that he's, something that is not good in baseball sometimes, and that he's a perfectionist. He always wants to tinker with his delivery. He's got a bunch of different things that he tries all the time. We're trying to get him to get one delivery out of him so he can be more consistent. Because this guy will show you as good an inning as you'll ever see, and there are innings that he pitches that he could be a big-league pitcher, and there are others that he doesn't compete. So it's just about consistency and him developing one delivery and not always tinkering with it."

Pelzer is a quality athlete that fields his position well. He gets off the mound quickly to field bunts and sets his feet before making a throw. He has also improved in his ability to curtail the running game. While he is still slower to the plate than some, he varies his look so runners don't have a chance to time him properly. A slow first step by the runner makes up for his 1.5-second delivery to home.

"He has as good an arm as anyone that we have in the system," roving pitching coordinator Mike Couchee said. "For him, it's just a question of becoming comfortable with what he wants to do delivery wise. He's a tinkerer. I just think it's a question with once we get him comfortable and with some consistent success, his stuff is tremendous.

"He really hasn't pitched as much as others, he's missed some time, and we have changed a lot of things, but I think he will move real fast."

"This kid has got the best stuff-wise on our staff, the most electric arm," Lezcano said. "A true competitor. He works hard.

"We moved him from the first base out of the rubber to the third base out of the rubber. He's getting used to that. He has a better angle on the right-handed hitters. This kid, like I say, once he commands the fastball, he's going to be there."

"When he comes into Spring Training, I'm just going to look and see where he's at," Rajsich said. "I'll know if he's worked and how he's worked in the winter, which side he's been on, and how the ball comes out of his hand. He's really got some kind of electric arm.

"You want to keep him as starter because you want him to develop that third pitch. You don't want him to keep that fastball/slider. You want him to develop the changeup. As long as he can, and as long as we can keep pushing him as a starter and build that arm up, it's just going to get better and better. I don't think he's ready for the bullpen yet, but I'm just saying, down the road, as starters and relievers go to the big leagues and there's a need, he's the guy that potentially could do both and that's a great swing."

Conclusion: Pelzer has the stuff to be an ace of a staff or a closer at the major league level. The hope is he comes up as a starter but that hinges on finding a third pitch. If he can add a third offering and improve his fastball command, Pelzer will be a force. If not, he safely profiles at the back end of a bullpen. Either way, Pelzer is a big leaguer waiting to happen.

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