Joseph Wieland. RHP, 6' 3", 175 lbs, Born: January 21, 1990. Normally, when you talk about a skinny high school pitcher with an 88-91 mph fastball, you expect a certain amount of projection. A scout for the Major League Scouting Bureau said, "There isn't much to project; he's not going to be a very physical guy." I'm definitely not a fan of the overly generic and often hedged Scouting Bureau draft reports, but this comment left me confused.
After being drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 4th round of the 2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Wieland had a very strong debut with the Arizona Rookie League Rangers. By the time fall instructionals arrived, Wieland's fastball was consistently 90-93 mph - a modest but solid 2 mph gain in only 4 months. There may or may not be more where that came from, but there's definitely room for projection.
The scout also pegged Wieland as an above average strike thrower, and that certainly has been the case so far in his professional career. In his 43.2 innings in 2008, Wieland averaged a meager 1.65 walks per 9 innings. What was really impressive was the rate at which he missed bats. In those same 43.2 innings, Wieland allowed only 32 hits while striking out 41.
Wieland recently made his 2009 debut with low A Hickory. The following video was shot during spring training.
Wieland has an easy, powerful stride. He lands fairly closed, but twists his landing leg to point his toe directly at the plate. There is some awkwardness when his back leg comes off the rubber. Because he lands closed, Wieland's back hip and leg are driving "through" his front hip. This is an example of a stride cutting off hip rotation.
Interestingly, his hip rotation doesn't seem to affect his shoulders. He gets good forward flexion, and his shoulders rotate as a single unit rather than separately.
Good shoulder rotation usually leads to a controlled follow-through, but Wieland's arm flies across his chest. This tends to stress the posterior capsule of the shoulder, particularly the supraspinatus and infraspinatus muscles of the rotator cuff.
Wieland takes his elbow pretty far toward first base, and even flexes his wrist in that direction. Though some people don't like this type of wrist flexion, I tend to view it as more of a quirk than anything else. The movement toward first base leads to forearm flyout when he drives his elbow back to the third-base side to throw the baseball.
When Wieland's front foot lands, his pitching forearm is nearly vertical, and active external rotation has already stopped. Though he picks up the ball with his elbow, he avoids an inverted arm position.
A reverse forearm bounce is present, but since the ball and his elbow aren't travelling in oppposite directions, it is fairly small.
Wieland appears to pronate pretty well on both his fastball and his curveball and very well on his change up.
Matt Thompson. RHP, 6' 3", 210 lbs, Born: February 10, 1990. A 7th round pick in last year's draft, Thompson recieved a signing bonus worthy of a 2nd round pick. He impressed the Rangers in a pre-draft workout at Rangers Ballpark with a fastball that flashes into the mid-90s and a sharp curve in the 74-77 mph range.
Thompson is a local product from Burleson, TX and attended Grace Preparatory Academy in Arlington, TX - practically in the Rangers' backyard.
He had an awful debut statistically. In only 8.1 innings, Thompson allowed a staggering 25 hits. He walked 4 hitters as well but struck out 12 to maintain a 3:1 K:BB ratio.
Thompson was really impressive at spring training, but he might not make his 2009 debut until Spokane takes the field in June.
Thompson has a high leg kick, gathers himself without drifting, and then goes into sort of a modified drop-and-drive stride. He lands just a bit closed - somewhere between my offset camera position and the plate - and keeps his shoulders closed extremely well.
Thompson flexes his trunk and rotates his shoulders simultaneously, and he does so while staying fairly tall. This description is similar to what I said about Neftali Feliz's trunk and shoulders, and even though Thompson does this very well, Feliz does it much better.
He limits but does not eliminate lateral movement of the baseball - both toward first base and toward third base - and tilts his shoulders to raise his elbow. These actions can help prevent forearm flyout and allow Thompson to use his triceps to apply force to the baseball.
At foot plant, Thompson's forearm is barely above horizontal, so he is still engaged in active external rotation. Because he is still actively externally rotating his pitching arm the baseball is moving toward first base when his elbow starts moving toward third base. This is a more extreme example of reverse forearm bounce, when the elbow and baseball move in opposite directions.
Thompson does not actively pronate on either his fastball or his curveball. On a more positive note, there is no evidence of supinated releases either. I wasn't able to identify any change ups from the pitches I captured.