Last season, left-handed hitters (14-55 .255) hit Brad Wieck a little better than righties (30-163 .184), so I had to question him about his mindset attacking both sides of the plate and if he does anything differently. Last time we spoke he talked to me about a slider he was working on, so I also asked him about that pitch. “I attack lefties and righties the same. I don’t consider myself a lefty specialist.” He told me the slight difference in average was due to the fact he didn’t face left-handers that often and they “snuck in a couple of hits off me here and there.” Either way he is effective and is a tough presence on the mound. This stat is nothing to even be concerned about.
I asked Brad about his thoughts on closing. He is effective against hitters from both side of the plate and his strikeout numbers are excellent (2016 61 innings-93 strikeouts). He has the moxie for the position, and I was curious to what he would say, though I pretty much knew the answer from speaking to Brad many times. “I’m a pitcher. I want the rock no matter what the situation is. If they want me to be a lefty specialist, then I’m going to be the best lefty specialist they could ask for. I f they want me to be a set-up man, then I am going to be the best set-up man I can be. If they want me to close, I am going to be the best closer they could ask for.” The man just wants to throw and get batters out. He doesn’t worry about details like that. I respect that very much. He is, and always will be, prepared on game day.
Our next topic was about his mechanics. The Padres wanted Brad to throw with a three-quarters delivery early last season. They initially wanted him to solely throw that way, but they have scrapped the idea and he tells me a little bit about it. “I would drop down to lefties in 2015 when I was still starting for Lake Elsinore. Glendon Rusch had me working that way. I went into all of spring training last year with the lower arm slot, but my velocity was down. I pitched well, but the velocity part of it didn’t sit well with me. I was only throwing 86 to 89 MPH with the lower arm slot and that wasn’t going to get me to where I wanted to be. I raised it back up as soon as the season started and was consistently 92 to 95.” Certainly with the results he had, the club did not enforce his arm slot. The extra velocity allowed Brad to be more effective on both sides of the plate, and he progressed well this year as a pitcher.
The Texas native was fortunate enough to make it to San Antonio this season. He started the year in Lake Elsinore, and we spoke about his return to Texas, and pitching in front of family and friends. “Every chance my parents got, they drove the seven hours to watch me play. I had huge support from my family and friends… I am truly blessed.” Lucky for Brad, the Padres two highest level affiliates are in San Antonio (Double-A) and El Paso (Triple-A). He will certainly pitch in front of more home crowds, unless he makes his way to San Diego and Petco Park, which is certainly a possibility in 2017.
I enjoy speaking with minor league players and picking their brains a bit. Sometimes they get the same old questions asked to them, so every once in a while I enjoy feeding them a changeup in our discussions. I asked Brad a question I often ask players. I am always curious about other players, in other systems. So I asked Brad to name a player in another system he witnessed in 2016, who impressed him. Not just in skill on the field, although that is part of it, but about character and such. He paused for a bit, and told me “There is a catcher in the Houston Astros organization. He is a little bitty guy. He doesn’t look like he would do much damage, but the dude works his tail off. He was in the California League All-Star game with me and his name is Garrett Stubbs. He caught me in the all-star game and handled himself well. He is a great catcher. He was humble and respectful of the game. He is a very good dude and that’s what counts. Good ball players are easy to find, it’s what is inside that counts most.” Garrett Stubbs is a 23-year-old catcher from USC who was drafted in the 8th round of the 2015 draft. Before that, he played baseball at Torrey Pines High School. That’s, right Stubbs is a San Diegan. Small world. Pay attention to this young catcher’s name, as I guarantee he will be one to keep an eye on. Players who are part of the minor league grind recognize those that have what it takes to succeed. That is the way it has always been in the game of baseball.
In Brad Wieck‘s 2016 season, he was 4-1 with a 1.17 ERA overall. He had an outstanding year, and I asked him about the fact he failed to give up a single home run the whole year. We both joked how incredible that was, as it just takes one lucky swing or missed location from him for it to happen. “I tried not to think about it too much. I had a couple of guys get pretty close and hit a couple of wall bangers. I wasn’t expecting it to happen (not allowing a HR), but at the same time I wasn’t going to allow it to happen either.” That’s him in a nutshell. If it happens, oh well, but he will not give you anything. He is a fighter. A competitor. He has what it takes.
Brad is 25, and he is seeing the youth movement sprout up in front of him in regards to the Padres’ farm system. He was not drafted by the Padres, as he was attained last June as the player to be named later in a trade with the Mets. In that deal, LHP Alex Torres was dealt to the Mets in the spring for RHP Cory Mazzoni and Wieck (PLTBNL). The farm system is impressive and Brad is certainly a believer. He sees all the talent surrounding him, and we spoke about the teenagers in particular, that makeup some of the Padres’ talent. “It amazes me to see all these 16, 17, 18-year-old kids. If I was in their shoes, I don’t know what I would do. They are really impressive.” The competition in the Padres’ system is there and the players will only benefit from it. The players themselves are well aware of how special this unit can be. “The Padres have it going on in their minor leagues. We are stacked. Our future is bright, and hopefully, one day I can help out the big league team.” His day should come. He was invited to the big league camp to start the spring, and he is very excited for the opportunity. With a little luck, and his tremendous work ethic, he could excel rather quickly. Brad Wieck has all the makings of a future Padre. Watch him develop, Padres’ fans.