The Milwaukee Brewers selected right-handed pitcher Tyler Wagner in the fourth round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He is a pitcher whom I believe is worthy of following carefully. I like his approach on the mound.
Wagner participated in a very high-profile baseball program at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. He played shortstop and pitched on the team.
Wagner then attended the University of Utah, where he set a team record with 17 career saves. He made 57 appearances for the Utes, striking out 90 with a 2.72 ERA. In his junior year, Wagner didn't get as many closing opportunities, and he recorded only two saves.
While Wagner was a closer in college, the Brewers drafted him as a starter.
After a bit of a rocky beginning to his career at Helena in the Pioneer Rookie League, Wagner is currently a very effective starting pitcher at Class A Wisconsin in the Midwest League. He has yielded only 68 hits in 83 1/3 innings pitched, has an ERA of 3.46 and has looked extremely sharp in recent starts.
During his 2012 rookie season, Wagner posted a 7.77 ERA in 48 2/3 innings pitched. His WHIP has dropped from 1.747 last year to his current very respectable.1.236. His improvement is noteworthy, and both his walk rate and hits per inning have been reduced.
Wagner is big and strong at 6-foot-3, 195-pounds. He has excellent mechanics, using a fairly simple three-quarters arm slot in a delivery that he repeats well. The ball comes out of his hand with ease, and there are no extraneous movements or distractions in his motion. In short, his delivery is really "clean."
Wagner has the ability to use three pitches in his repertoire. His fastball has excellent late life with sink that generates a high percentage of ground balls. His velocity on the pitch is in the low-90's, with 94 mph appearing to be the top of his range. His slider is a good pitch, but it is not as yet as refined as the fastball. I also saw a changeup that looks to be a work in progress.
The breaking ball might be the secret weapon for Wagner. He can set the hitter up with a sinking fastball and then throw the breaking ball to change the balance and eye level of the hitter. He also has the ability to elevate the higher velocity fastball to the eyes of the hitter, tempting swings at air.
Few hitters have fast enough hands to get through a high fastball, even if it looks like a beach ball appearing in front of their eyes.
While not overpowering on the mound, Wagner is the type of pitcher that can be effective as a back end of the rotation starter. He can eat innings with command and control that is steadily improving. He will offer the Brewers a formidable pitching option when his development is complete.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.