So what’s behind Collin Wiles’ breakout season and Double-A All-Star nod in 2017, anyways? The big righty told me himself, the jump to Double-A is arguably baseball’s most important one, where actual prospects show out and wannabe prospects wash out. Wiles doesn’t throw hard, he doesn’t miss a ton of bats, and he doesn’t have a hammer of a curveball that projects to freeze everybody he faces—all things you’d love to see in a future rotation arm. And yet here he is pitching to contact and proving he’s more prospect and less flame-out with every start he makes for the Frisco RoughRiders. What gives?
There are a few components to this—not the least of which is vastly improved command and the ability to truly sequence at-bats—but there’s a big point in Wiles’ development that I think ought to be focused upon a bit: intent.
Intent is a buzzword for those in the industry who train pitchers to throw harder, and for good reason (because it makes a difference!), but intent also does wonders for average-velocity command guys like Wiles who can channel their focus into hitting the mitt and executing on every single pitch. Here’s a big juicy Collin Wiles quote that didn’t make our feature interview today, but that I think is nevertheless still critical to understanding some of the player development that’s gone on him over the last twelve months:
“I get into trouble when I’m on the mound and I get a sign, and think, ‘eh, yeah, sure, I’ll throw that,'” Wiles told me. “That little split second of indecision, that’s what leads to hits. I’ve gotten better about that, though. I wouldn’t say I’m 100% full intent on every batter, but I know that I’m more there than I ever have been before. And that’s really fun, because when I take my scouting report and try to execute it as best as I can, that’s how I rate myself on how I did that day.”
“And that’s the fun part of being a pitcher,” he continued. “Everybody loves to give credit to hitters for hitting home runs, or getting base hits, but what gets lost in translation is how it looks when a pitcher really, fully executes his game plan. I think people think ‘oh, he’s a pitcher, he’s supposed to do that,’ but it’s not that simple. And it’s a lot of fun when you do it, it’s something you can look back on at the end of the day whether your numbers are good or not. If I feel like I executed my game plan, and I got hit around and got beat, well, OK. That’s on me. I’m not going to put the blame on anybody else. Taking ownership makes it more fun for me.”
There’s a lot to unpack in that quote, including a great idea about Wiles taking ownership of his ability to scout hitters and synthesize a pre-game attack plan, but I think the intent portion is really critical in explaining his success this season. Wiles is what he is: 86-91 mph with his fastball, 74-76 mph with the curve, 80-82 mph with the slider, and 77-79 mph with the changeup. All four pitches grade out as average or even slightly below, but all four do something, and when that happens at the knees with pinpoint command (executed through intent!), that’s where Wiles thrives through a very good league. The ‘intent’ idea, in our conversations, comes through in how he’s been able to focus on only that single pitch at that particular moment, and avoid the ‘eh, yeah, sure,’ mindset he referenced that has plagued him in the past.
‘Eh, yeah, sure’ leads to the occasional ball up in the zone when he’s not committed fully to what pitch he’s supposed to throw and goes on mental auto-pilot through execution. And when you only throw 88 mph, the occasional ball up in the zone becomes the guaranteed ball to land in Frisco’s lazy river out beyond right field. In other words, Wiles doesn’t have the margin of error to get away with anything less than full intent because he doesn’t possess wipeout stuff. And so intent to throw with authority down in the zone and to the corners, no matter the velocity, is how Collin Wiles is surviving and then some in 2017.
Long term, he’s not a frontline starter or an ace, so there will eventually be a limit on his average stuff. But seeing how he’s adjusted to Double-A, and really watching how he’s been able to peak at the right time, I like Collin Wiles as a back end rotation guy with enough in his repertoire to truly pitch his way through starts every fifth day at the highest level. He’s always going to give up hits, and he will likely always give up his fair share of home runs, but if his command remains where it is now, he’ll do it all with no runners on base and Wiles’ competitiveness is going to allow him to survive a few solo home runs. The bottom line: this guy is throwing the ball where he wants to right now, and if you’re still sleeping on Collin Wiles, you should probably recalibrate pretty quickly.
As a matter of fact, let’s watch him dot it up a little bit:
(That last one in particular is a phenomenally-located pitch, though your attention has likely been diverted to Jose Trevino‘s snap back-pick.)
All these GIFs are pulled from our Collin Wiles 2017 game video, which you can watch in full here. For hundreds more baseball prospect videos, too, please click here and subscribe to our YouTube channel.