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Fantasy Baseball Prospects: Matt Wisler Should Be On Every Fantasy Radar

Michael Clifford takes a deeper look at San Diego Padres prospect Matt Wisler and what fantasy baseball owners can expect this season and beyond.

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

This should probably go without saying, but Petco Park is one the best parks in baseball for any pitcher to call his home. These numbers bear out in the pitching staff. San Diego, as a team, has the lowest home ERA in baseball at 2.65. On the road? They fall to 12th in baseball at 3.77. It’s not an ERA mirage, either: San Diego has the lowest home wOBA against at .272 and fourth-lowest FIP against at 3.30. On the road, the Padres wOBA against drops to .314 (14th in baseball) and are tied for sixth in FIP against at 3.66.

All that is to say: If you’re looking for a fantasy baseball prospect coming through the system, looking in San Diego is a pretty good start.

Background

Matt Wisler is a 6-foot-3 right-hander that was drafted out of high school by the Padres in the seventh round of the 2011 Entry Draft. This is a pitcher who, at the tender age of 21, was earning praise for control of his fastball (not something that every young pitcher has) and seemed to be destined to get to the Majors at some point in 2014. I’ll get into that a bit later.

As I (more accurately, Baseball America) noted, Wisler has very good control of his fastball. Not only has Baseball America noted that, but so did Scott Strandberg over at FanGraphs. For those wanting to take a look at his delivery, take a look at this article from Mike Rosenbaum with video from Jason Cole. The fastball that Wisler offers sits low-90s but he has the ability to crank it up a bit. While his delivery isn’t quite perfect, not many at his age are, and it hasn’t stopped him from progressing through the Minors. Add a potentially plus-slider, an occasional curveball, and a ways-to-come changeup, and the makings for a good Major League pitcher are there.

One concern that is raised in that article from Strandberg is that Wisler hasn’t been too great against lefties. That has corrected a bit this year, though, as he has allowed a lower OBP and SLG against lefties than righties. He also has nearly identical K/BB rates against both sides (3.22 vs. RHB and 3.25 vs. LHB). It may be noise, because it strays from what he’s usually done. But maybe he actually has figured out how to get lefties out.

One thing Wisler does very well is pound the strike zone. This is what he did at every level leading up to his Triple-A call a couple of months ago:

Level Strikeouts Walks K/BB
Single-A (114 IP) 113 28 4.04
High-A (31 IP) 28 6 4.67
Double-A (135 IP) 138 33 4.18

 

That’s pretty, pretty good.

In fact, Wisler has been good in that regard in Triple-A too. After being called up at the end of May and making his first Triple-A start on June 5, Wisler has 62 strikeouts to 24 walks in 75.2 innings. That mark of 2.58 K/BB certainly isn’t on the level of what he did at the other levels, but it’s not terrible either.

It’s worth mentioning what’s happened at Triple-A:

  • A, A+, Double-A (280 IP): 11 HR allowed, or 0.36 HR/9. That mark is excellent.
  • Triple-A (75.2 IP) 14 HR allowed, or 1.67 HR/9. That mark is terrible.

That number without context would be terrifying. However, that comes from Wisler pitching in the Pacific Coast League (PCL). For those unfamiliar, the PCL is pretty much the Minor League equivalent of consistently pitching at Coors Field. It’s a bandbox league. As a Blue Jays fan, I remember the team almost refusing to send prospects to Las Vegas to pitch in the PCL for that reason alone. At time of writing, there are four qualified pitchers in the whole league with an ERA under 3.55. So while it might concern some that Wisler’s ERA at Triple-A is 5.71, fellow prospect Noah Syndergaard owns a cool 5.34 ERA. Pitchers just rarely excel in that league, so his numbers at Triple-A are pretty much useless.

Forget what he’s done in a bandbox league for 75.2 innings and look at what he’s done in the other 280 innings. He has the potential to be elite. He has control, he has at least two pitches and a third that can be good, and his club team plays in a very pitcher-friendly park.

Fantasy Outlook

The Padres have packed it in for the year. Their selling has begun, with third baseman Chase Headley and closer Huston Street both finding new addresses in the last week. There are rumors that starter Ian Kennedy may be on his way out the door as well. With Andrew Cashner always an injury risk and currently on the disabled list, there is absolutely no reason that Wisler shouldn’t be getting the call here shortly. It doesn’t make sense to leave him getting pounded in the PCL, they have (or will have) rotation needs, and he’s not getting demoted. In that sense, for those that need help now in any type of league, it might be a good idea to grab him now if there’s a free roster spot.

If Wisler can maintain a K-rate over 7 K/9 IP in the PCL, that should translate just fine to the Majors. This is a guy with control, so unless he gets BABIP’d to death, this is a safe WHIP bet. Wherever the ERA lands, we’ll see. I’m hoping he can keep it under 3.50, though, considering where he’s pitching. The one concern would be wins, but both Kennedy and Tyson Ross could get to 12-13 wins each in a full year, and that’s passable in fantasy.

This is a pitcher that I would be more willing to take a risk on if I’m looking to make up a bit of ground in ratios, rather than maintaining them. In other words, I’d rather take a risk on him if I’m in fourth or fifth in a roto league rather than first or second. One pitcher won’t turn a season around at this point, but he can be part of a solution.

*As always, thanks to Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and Baseball Cube for their sources.

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