Among the first wave of pitching prospects acquired by the Braves, right-hander Matt Wisler has the most modest pedigree. Yet it appeared Wisler would be the first to stick in the big leagues after he followed a strong close to 2015 with a good start to 2016.
But Wisler’s eventual ineffectiveness prompted the Braves to send him to Triple-A Gwinnett last July. Now, after some lackluster results in the Grapefruit League, Wisler is behind projected No. 5 starter Mike Foltynewicz and also might trail Aaron Blair in the pecking order of young pitchers.
“His ‘stuff’ (pitch quality) has been good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said after Wisler surrendered two solo home runs to the Yankees on Sunday. “But, again, it’s just location—fastball location. He’s just got to keep working on location. The stuff is there. The kid’s stuff is too good not to be successful.”
Wisler has posted a 9.82 ERA in three outings this spring. He’s allowed 11 hits over 7 1/3 innings with three walks and three home runs.
The results haven’t been good but Wisler said he feels as if he’s improved with each start.
“I thought (Sunday) was probably the best that I’ve felt all spring,” Wisler said Monday. “I got some angle on my fastball, got the ball down in the zone better. I gave up two solo home runs, two line drives to (short) right in that park. I think I felt a lot better. Still got a lot of stuff to improve upon before the season stats but everything is heading in the right direction.”
Wisler certainly has the potential to turn things around. His pitching repertoire was what set him apart from the three other prospects acquired by the Braves in 2015 trades: Foltynewicz, Blair and Sean Newcomb.
Foltynewicz was touted as the power thrower, Blair had the fastball/change-up combination and Newcomb was the hard-throwing lefty with a big curveball. All three players were first-round draft picks and are more physically imposing than Wisler.
Wisler, meanwhile, was a seventh-round draft pick by the Padres in 2011. But he boasted off a fastball that touched 95 mph, a two-seam fastball with good movement, a plus slider and a pretty good curveball.
Wisler moved up the prospect rankings after dominating the Double-A level in San Diego’s farm system in 2014. He showed enough at Triple-A Gwinnett Braves called him up in June 2015 days after sending Foltynewicz down to work on his command.
Now Wisler finds himself behind Foltynewicz again. Blair has been effective this spring, too, and so has veteran right-hander Josh Collmenter.
When the Braves sent Wisler back to Gwinnett last season, he said the demotion was on him because he hadn’t been effective. He vowed to show the club that he belongs back in the big-league rotation.
“I’ve always got to stay in that (mindset),” Wisler said. “I think we’ve got a lot of competition, which is good for us all. It’s going to push everybody. I’m just trying to get myself better every day. I’m not trying to worry too much about what anyone else is doing and just myself ready to go out there every fifth day and doing my job, the way I know I can.”
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