Matt Wisler, 20, had his second strong season in the Padres’ organization finishing 8-5 with a3.00 ERA as he struck out 103 batters against only 27 walk in AA San Antonio. He also got better as the season went on with a 2.18 ERA in the second half and topping it off with 16 innings of one-run baseball in the playoffs for the Missions.
“He was a treat to watch, particularly how much better he got month by month,” said Mike Saeger, the Missions’ play-by-play announcer who got a first-hand look at Wisler’s development this year’s Texas League championship team.
“Has a great fastball/slider combo that was deadly on righties. Also has a pretty nice changeup and a decent curveball.”
Growing up in Bryan, Ohio, a city in the northwest corner of the state, Matt dreamed of two things; becoming a professional baseball player and wearing the scarlet and grey of Ohio State. But in 2011 an opportunity to pursue a major league career when San Diego drafted him in the seventh round was just too much to pass up when the Padres met his salary demands.
“Playing major league baseball has always been one of my biggest goals,” Wisler said last year in Fort Wayne on why he gave up his scholarship to the Buckeyes.
“College would have been a good experience but everything that I have heard from a variety of people if you really want to pitch in the big leagues its better to start earlier than later.”
In his first full season as a professional Wisler showed his durability by throwing throwing a 114 innings and pounding the zone with 113 strikeouts against only 28 walks and 95 hits. His 2.53 ERA was good enough for third overall in the Midwest League.
This season the organization started him off in High-A Lake Elsinore but after six starts of holding the opposition to a .198 batting average in the the hitter friendly Cal League, the Padres decided that they could be a little more aggressive with his development.
“We moved him up from Lake Elsinore fairly quickly because it was evident to us that he wasn’t being challenged,” said Randy Smith, the Padres’ Director of Development and International Scouting on his promotion to the Texas League.
“He struggled a little early in the year in San Antonio and had to learn that you get away with a lot less as you move up to higher levels.”
Wisler did struggle in his first month with a 5.14 ERA before posting a 2.46 ERA over the final three months of the season.
“Getting the ball down in the zone and staying away from fastball counts,”Wisler said from his off-season home in Bryan on his improvement in the Texas League.
“I also worked on mixing my speeds a little more and commanding all of my pitches. I get in trouble when I’m not hitting my spots and batters can just sit on the fastball.”
After posting a 5.14 ERA in May he wasn’t above three in the next three months and finished off August with a 3-1 record and 1.86 ERA as he was a big part of the Missions second Texas League championship in three years.
“Obviously did a terrific job making adjustments to the higher level,” Saeger further elaborated on Wisler’s improvement during the season.
“He also had the luxury of working with pitching coach Jimmy Jones, of whom I think the world for his ability at what he does working with young pitchers.”
Since being drafted by the Padres he has put on a good thirty pounds and has seen his velocity on his four-seam fastball top out at 98 MPH but sit around 92 to 95 MPH. Throw in a plus slider and good curve and change and he has what it takes to be a big league starter.
While the velocity spike is nice he also knows the key to his success this year was being more than a thrower.
“My slider is my best off-speed pitch and I can work off of it,” said Wisler. “My curve ball and change-up are coming along, but I think my change will be a better pitch for me next season along with my two-seam fastball.”
“When I’m facing lefties, if I am commanding it that day, I can throw nearly seventy-five percent two-seamers and I will throw it inside to righties.”
The only thing Wisler really failed at last year was hitting, where he was 0-3 with two strikeouts as he got his first at-bats in AA where pitchers hit against other National League teams.
“I definitely do not want to be the guy that doesn’t have a hit next year,”said a laughing Wisler on being reminded of his struggles at the plate. “In AAA you hit more so I need to make sure that I can execute the sacrifice and get some work in the cage.”
“But I’m also going to take a few hacks as well.”