Brendan Wise is like the Reese’s peanut butter cup of the Twins system, in that he combines two things Twins scouts have a taste for: Australians and former Tigers. Like fellow Twins youngsters Luke Hughes, Liam Hendriks, and Rory Rhodes, Wise grew up on the world’s smallest continent, in the city of Perth. He also follows in the footsteps of Wilkin Ramirez, Casey Fien, Lester Oliveros, Phil Dumatrait, and Joel Zumaya as a former member of the Tiger organization who will be in camp with the Twins this year. Like most of those other guys, the 26 year old Wise will have a high two digit number on his back; he’ll wear number 66.
Actually, Wise has a third attribute that Twins scouts love, in that he is a control pitcher who uses a low 90s sinking fastball to induce ground balls rather than relying on strikeouts. So you can extend the analogy above and say that Wise is the Twins equivalent of a Reese’s cup dipped in cold, delicious beer.
The 6’2″ 190 pound right-hander made his U.S. debut in college, at Pratt Community College in Kansas. The Tigers nabbed him in the 2005 draft (round eight), and up until this past offseason, the Tiger organization was the only baseball home Wise knew. Aside from his first short season in Rookie League, he spent pretty much his entire time with the Tigers pitching out of the bullpen. The Tigers kept shuffling him between high A and AA for three seasons (2007-2009) even though he consistently put up ERA totals well under 4.00. Finally in 2010, Wise got a shot at AAA, where he pitched to a dazzling 2.08 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 52 innings. He improved on that performance in 2011 with a 1.90 ERA in 61.1 innings.
The fact that Wise was not called up to the Majors last year is a testament to how much better the Tiger bullpen was than the Twins pen. Any reliever with a 1.90 ERA at Rochester would have joined the Twins’ staff before the season was halfway over. The Tigers, however, were well armed with Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, and Al Albuquerque in the late innings. All of those names are players the Tigers counted on to hold leads and record key strikeouts.
Wise is not a strikeout pitcher. He has never fanned more than 5.7 batters per nine innings in any of his seven minor league seasons (interestingly, though, that career high of 5.7 K/9 came in 2011 at AAA). But as long as he keeps opposing hitters on the ground, he may have a job with the Twins organization. Experience has taught us that a lack of strikeouts never prevents a Twins pitcher from advancing. Walks do, though, and that might be a slight concern for Wise. He walked 4.2 batters per nine innings in 2011 – a mark that is far too high for a control pitcher. The good news is that prior to 2011 he had generally kept his totals well under 3.0 BB/9.
Hopefully the Twins bullpen will be much more stable than it was in 2011. The addition of Zumaya and the likely shift of Brian Duensing back to a relief role should help. But there will still be growing pains as the team tries to find the right combination of late inning relievers. That’s where Wise may find an opportunity to break through. If he limits the walks and keeps the ball in the park, we could see him at some point during the season.
This concludes Puckett’s Pond’s quest to write about all 25 of the Twins non-roster invitees. If you missed the first 24, do not despair! You can read them all here.