Right-hander Joe Wieland recently finished off his first full season in professional baseball.
The Rangers' fourth round pick in the 2008 MLB Draft spent the majority of his season with Single-A Hickory, where he posted a 4-6 record with a 5.31 earned-run average. Wieland logged 83.0 innings, yielding 102 hits, walking 24, and striking out 73.
Although the numbers were far from dominant, the 19-year-old had a lot of positives in 2009. At 6-foot-3, 175-pounds, the Rangers [and Nolan Ryan especially] felt Wieland would gain fastball velocity over time and become more of a power pitcher.
Wieland's fastball generally sat around 88-91 mph during his time at Reno's Bishop Manogue High School, but he worked at 90-92 mph, topping out at 93 with the AZL Rangers last summer.
This season, Wieland's velocity went up another tick, as he sat between 90-93 and hit 94 a couple of times per start. Prior to the '09 campaign, Wieland had never bumped 94 before.
Additionally, Wieland learned to become increasingly comfortable with his changeup, and it is developing into an average pitch. The hurler has some deception in his delivery, he knows how to pitch, and he is developing a power fastball, a good curveball, and a strong changeup.
Wieland's offseason hasn't even begun yet, as he is currently attending Fall Instructional League with approximately 50 other young prospects, but he is an early leading candidate for a breakout season in 2010.
Jason Cole: You've finished up your first full season in professional baseball. What are your final thoughts?
Joe Wieland: Overall, I thought it was good. I had some ups and downs, but it was a good learning experience. I thought I finished strong and it gave me something to build off of for next year.
Cole: You had 83 innings in Hickory, but of course you also pitched in Spring Training and started the season in Extended Spring Training. How many innings did you have with everything combined?
Wieland: I believe I had about 110-115 innings if you include Spring Training.
Cole: How many did you have last year?
Wieland: I threw 70 in high school and then 40-something in the AZL.
Cole: How does your arm feel right now? Since it was about the same as last season, how does it feel compared to that?
Wieland: It feels good. I went through a dead-arm phase at about the same time both last year and this year. And after the little rest they gave me, my arm was back to 100 percent and it still feels great now.
Cole: When was that dead-arm period approximately, and what did that do to your velocity, overall stuff, and results?
Wieland: It was in July. My velocity started going down, my fastball was up in the zone, and I couldn't locate my offspeed stuff. I started walking guys and I was getting hit.
Cole: Other than that period, I know your velocity fastball was higher than ever this year. Where were you sitting in general?
Wieland: I was 90-93 mph in extended and in the first half of the Low-A season, and then after the rest they gave me I was sitting at 90-94 mph.
Cole: I know 93 was pretty much your top last year. Had you ever hit 94 before this season?
Wieland: Nope. After the rest I got this year, I would hit it a couple of times per outing.
Cole: Where do you think the extra velocity came from?
Wieland: I think I had built my arm strength up, but my arm was just tired. And once my arm had rested, it was like throwing for the first time in the spring again.
Cole: Looking back on the season as a whole, what part of your game were you most happy with?
Wieland: My fastball command. When I was rested, I felt like I could put it anywhere I wanted to–especially the inside part of the plate. I had more walks than I would have liked, but they were still low.
Also, I was very pleased with the improved feel of my changeup. That was the main focus of extended for me, and I feel like I have started to develop it into a pretty good pitch.
Cole: Last year, you told me that your two-seam fastball was key for you, especially during the dead-arm period. Did you break it out very often this year?
Wieland: Towards the end I did, and I was able to get a lot of swings and misses and ground ball outs on it.
Cole: What led you to start using it again towards the end?
Wieland: I went back to what worked for me last year, and that was pounding hitters inside.
Cole: You've always pitched on the first-base side of the rubber, but I remember the Rangers moving you to the third-base side at instructs last year with the thought that it's better for power pitchers. Did that work out?
Wieland: They tried to do it during instructs, but it didn't work for me. I tried the entire instructs and in the offseason, but I never got comfortable. It changed how I pitched. I couldn't throw my two-seam without hitting someone.
Cole: Now you're back in Arizona at Fall Instructional League for the second year in a row. You guys have played a couple of games now–have you pitched yet?
Wieland: No, I pitch tomorrow [Wednesday].
Cole: Well, as someone that was there last year. Tell me about the feel of it. How does it compare to last year?
Wieland: There are a lot of similarities, but a lot of differences, too. And having this be my second year, I am more comfortable with everything that is going on.
Cole: What are a few of those differences?
Wieland: We are doing a lot more on-field work. We have a lot of competitions, too, whether it's PFP's [pitcher's fielding practice] or conditioning obstacle courses. It's a lot of fun.
Cole: Who is managing the instructs team this year?
Wieland: There are a bunch of people helping, but [DSL Rangers manager] Jayce Tingler is the manager for the games.
Cole: Last question–I'm going to put you on the spot here. I know it's early, but who has impressed you in camp thus far?
Wieland: I haven't really seen the hitters, but Matt Thompson has done well and Chad Bell has done well. Most guys have only thrown bullpens, though, so it's tough to say.
Velocity continues to climb for Wieland
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