ADELANTO, Calif. — Texas Rangers prospect Collin Wiles isn’t pitching in the most comfortable environment this summer, after the big league club shuffled him off to the most hitter-friendly outpost in the High-A California League. Last year, in Low-A, he pitched in one of the most hitter-friendly home parks in the South Atlantic League, though, so perhaps surrounding environment isn’t much of a concern for the Kansas native who Texas nabbed with the 53rd pick of the 2012 amateur draft.
The 22-year-old starter is a pitch-to-contact hurler, so he’ll give up his fair share of runs and home runs in a park like Heritage Field. But thus far this summer, he’s consistently proving that though he may bend here and there in tough situations, he has the pitchability and stuff to keep from breaking early in games. That’ll keep the High Desert Mavericks within striking distance, as he’s allowed four runs or fewer in 14 of his 18 starts—no small achievement in Adelanto.
Here’s our scouting video from Wiles’ July 27 start at home against Stockton, in which he threw 6.1 innings and allowed two earned runs:
Velocity/stuff: Wiles will sit in the low-90s with his fastball, on the 27th showing it anywhere from 90-93 mph and topping out at 94 mph. The pitch itself is interesting; at times it shows decent arm-side run and some sink, as you’d expect, but other fastballs in his arsenal have more of a cutting action that make for an interesting show in on the hands of lefties.
Along with it, he throws a slider, curveball, and changeup, focusing more on the two breaking balls and showing the ability and trust to use those off-speed pitches to both righties and lefties. Consistently against Stockton, Wiles was unafraid to bury sliders on lefties’ back foot, while obviously utilizing both it and the curve (which he seemed to bring out more the second time through the lineup) to right-handed hitters.
As is the case with most pitchers at this level, the changeup seemed more of a work in progress relative to his other off-speed stuff, but at times it showed good hump and good arm side run. When used in conjunction with his two glove-side breaking balls, that pitch could develop into a nice change-of-pace, going the opposite way, to his arm side, when needed.
Mechanics: Wiles’ mechanics are about as conventional as you can get for a right-handed starting pitcher, showing a high-three quarters arm angle and a pretty familiar windup, release, and follow through. He’s relaxed in his delivery, doesn’t over-exert, and quite clearly proved able to repeat his mechanics as his pitch count climbed, something that can prove difficult at this level, both in the windup and stretch.
In the stretch, he showed proficiency in repeating his arm action and maintaining his release point, abstaining from rushing to the plate and getting things out of whack along the way. His stride length and landing point are generally consistent, and he lands slightly closed to the plate, resulting in a mild (but ultimately insignificant) fall to first base in follow through.
Context: A high school product who won’t turn 23 until the end of next May, Wiles is right on track to be in High-A right now, especially since he was considered something of a surprise in the compensation round the summer he was drafted.
He had a very good summer as a 21-year-old in Low-A Hickory last year (11-3, 2.96 in 22 games/20 starts) and though he has never missed bats in his career (just 5.5 K/9 in 397 pro innings), he throws strikes (2.2 BB/9 in that same time frame). Encouragingly for his pitch-to-contact profile, he’s also largely stayed away from home runs, both in his career (0.6 HR/9) and in a very difficult environment in High Desert this summer alone (0.9 HR/9 in his first 99.1 innings pitched).
Projection: With four pitches (as well as that cutting wrinkle on his fastball), Wiles has a chance to work as a back-end rotation member down the road. Beyond that, long relief may be his best-suited role at the ultimate level, should he prove unable to adjust in the rotation or struggle to face better lineups multiple times.
If you’re looking for a big league comp for Wiles, consider Colorado Rockies righty Jordan Lyles, a pitcher with an identical repertoire in remarkably similar velocity bands. Lyles has been going through tough times this year, unfortunately, and the shine has worn off for him after his promising earlier career with Houston, and then the Rockies, but Wiles may have a similar path regarding his major league role down the road.