Jerry Dipoto continued his silent war against beat reporters today, acquiring Matt Wisler from the Padres for cash and forcing reporters to momentarily put down their Fourth of July barbecue to tweet about Matt Wisler.
Wisler is somehow only 26, despite having made his MLB debut way back in 2015 for Atlanta. I remember adding him to my fantasy team that year, full of hope and promise, only to see him post an FIP near 5 and strike out absolutely nobody. Things didn’t much improve for the 6’3” righty from there. He floundered around between MLB and Triple-A for the Braves for the next two years before being traded to the Reds in 2018, who DFA’d him before the beginning of this season. He was then traded to the Padres, the organization that had originally drafted him (before trading him to Atlanta in the Kimbrel/B.J. Upton deal), who DFA’d him a few days ago, and in turn became a Seattle Mariner in exchange for cash. The Mariners had an open spot on their 40-man, so no corresponding move will be necessary. However, Wisler is out of minor-league options, so he will have to slot right into the Mariners pen and begin producing immediately or risk being DFA’d again, hahaha just kidding, have you seen the state of our bullpen.
Wisler has recently been shifted to the bullpen full-time, and the results have been better than when he was a starter: he’s striking out more batters than ever (26.4%), which is what you want to see in a relief role conversion. However, he’s also walking a fair number of batters (7.8%), included a walkoff walk against the Pirates on the 23rd that precipitated his DFA-ing. Walks were never a problem for Wisler at the minor-league level, but have haunted his MLB career. With the Mariners emphasizing pitching to contact and controlling the zone, the organization might try to get Wisler back to his minor-league self.
It’s possible, too, that they will explore transitioning him back into a starter, as Wisler has a traditional starter’s arsenal of pitches, none of which are especially overpowering. He throws a fastball (92-93), sinker (91-92), a slider (82-84), and a curve (74-78). He’s also thrown a changeup (87-89) in the past that he’s scrapped completely in a relief role; he’s also basically scrapped the curve and become very slider-heavy, throwing that about 70% of the time and pairing that with his fastball, which has jumped a few mph in the ‘pen.
Even if Wisler stays in the bullpen, he has a future there thanks to his wicked slider, his best pitch. Wisler’s slider features above-average spin; the MLB average is around 2400 RPM, but Wisler’s slider spins at 2500-2600 RPM, and can get as high as 2700. The result is a ball that falls away on hitters at the last minute and engenders some wild whiffs:
And some very ugly swings:
Matt Wisler, Nasty 82 mph Slider (release/spin). pic.twitter.com/Z9fgLsv33V— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 20, 2018
Wisler has the highest slider usage in MLB and will need to work on his fastball, specifically making sure it doesn’t get too straight, as his fastball has been very hittable for batters this year when it’s in the zone (which is why he so often puts it outside of the zone). That’s something the Mariners have time and patience to work with Wisler on, making him the latest resident of Seattle’s Home For Wayward Pitchers, Hard-Throwers With Command Issues and Nasty Sliders division, where he’ll bunk up with Austin Adams, Connor Sadzeck, and whoever the Mariners’ next rehabilitation project may be.