Making the switch from college closer to professional starter is not an easy task – but for Timber Rattlers’ Tyler Wagner it has been a solid transition courtesy of his faith in his teammates and strong work ethic.
“I had high expectations for myself as far as throwing a lot of innings and getting experience that I needed to get through this year,” Wagner said.
Milwaukee drafted the Utah Ute from Las Vegas in 2012 with the fourth round selection and has steadily improved to eventually lead Single A Wisconsin with 148.2 innings pitched in 2013.
“I just kept doing the same things and staying healthy throughout the year. Our strength coach was good with us this year by keeping us in the routine and it helped me become a better starter,” Wagner explained.
In addition, Wagner produced ten victories to lead the Rattlers and was the third most in the Midwest League.
The 22-year-old credited his focus on maintaining consistency and ability to adapt to a new pitching role for his 2013 success.
“I never really pushed myself with innings. I think it was something that needed to get used to,” Wagner said. “It was all about being consistent with the workouts and healthcare stuff”
Wagner accumulated a phenomenal strikeout-to-walk ratio with 116 strikeouts compared to 56 walks for Wisconsin.
The continued development in his breaking ball allowed him to have confidence in himself when on the mound.
“I think definitely my sinker and didn’t have a lot of issues with it this year,” Wagner said. “I got a lot of confidence in it and learned to have trust in it and throw it for strikes this year and not try to nibble around the corners.”
MLB.com’s Bernie Pleshkoff observed Wagner in July and had high regards for the right-hander noting his strength and efficient delivery:
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.”
Pleshkoff also noted his development will improve progressively as he continues his Minor League career and could be a formidable option in the future.
Wagner stated to Brewers Farm Report his desire to learn as much as he can about pitching as he heads into the 2014 season.
“Just got to keep learning from some of the guys I am playing with,” Wagner said. “Just keep developing my mechanics and being more consistent and in general a better player.”
Wagner also touts his 95 miles per hour fastball as a way of getting ahead in the count
The pitcher’s career was not without struggle after incurring difficulty when he was with the Pioneer League Helena Brewers in 2012.
While Wagner averaged nearly a strikeout per inning his inaugural season, he allowed 63 hits in 48.2 innings with the Rookie Level team.
“The hitters in that league are free-swingers and my fastball was tougher to use,” Wagner explained in regards to his stint with Helena.
Faith in teammates, family
Wagner credits his 2013 success due to his solid relationship and trust with his catchers, including Parker Berberet.
“It has to be a catcher where we could talk about pitch selection and moving forward with hitters. I think the big guy would have to be Parker Berberet,” Wagner added.
Through the duration of the season, Wagner respected Berberet and other catchers’ ability to call a game behind the plate.
“They all know how to call a game and I trusted what they put down and I just tried to get ahead in the count with the fastball,” Wagner said. “I think we were on the same page most of the year.”
Berberet was behind the plate in Wagner’s complete game performance May 8 where he shut down Clinton 5-0 and struck out ten LumberKings in the first game of a doubleheader.
In his complete game, he struck out ten batters and allowed just three hits and two walks through the seven-inning contest (Minor League rules indicate seven innings in each game of a doubleheader).
“After the first couple innings I was able to battle back and stay with my approach and just stay with the things that was working through the game and able to make it a complete game,” Wagner said.
Shortstop Orlando Arcia’s defense was instrumental to Wagner’s ability to work efficiently on the mound and received high praise.
“He (Arcia) is definitely fluid on the field where he can make a play,” Wagner said. “He did a great job behind me on the pitching mound. I am a ground ball pitcher and he is a great guy to have on the team.”
Wagner also conveyed he has Midwestern roots with nearly his entire family still living in the Minneapolis/St. Paul region of Minnesota – and grew up cheering on the home team.
“My whole family came up from the Minneapolis area and watched a lot of Twins games,” Wagner said.
Due to the close proximity between the Twin Cities and Appleton he was able to receive a number of visits from family.
“My dad traveled up a lot and my Mom came and various uncles and cousins came to visit so it was nice,” Wagner said.
Wagner stated he enjoyed his time in Wisconsin’s Fox Valley region in 2013 and was impressed with Fox Cities Stadium.
“I loved Appleton and its a great place to be. The facilities up there are unbelievable,” Wagner said. “The experience up there in general was just awesome.”