SARASOTA, Fla. — Every minor league spring training camp is filled with players trying to get noticed – mostly lanky young men attempting to convince scouts and evaluators of what they might one day become.
At 6’6″, 225 pounds, however, it’s difficult not to catch some attention. An imposing physical specimen, Orioles pitching prospect Ken Wise tends to stand out among his peers. The right-hander uses his massive frame to generate an impressive fastball/slider combination. Size and speed, however, were not always the pitcher’s forte.
Wise went undrafted out of high school, sporting a low to mid 80s fastball and weighing in under the 200 pound mark, a sign that the big man had plenty of room to fill out. It was precisely this physical growth that Wise focused on during his time with Santa Fe College in Gainseville, Florida.
“I got in the weight room more and put on, probably, 20 to 25 pounds,” Wise said. “It really took my game to the next level. Coming out of high school and into my freshman year of college I was throwing mid to high 80s, but when I went to Santa Fe I was sitting 89 to 92, touching 93 a little bit.”
While the increased weight added power to his fastball, it also made repeating his mechanics difficult at first. Despite excellent strikeout numbers and limited hits, Wise also struggled with his control, walking 46 batters in 60 innings last season for Santa Fe.
Still, the big body and powerful repertoire caught the attention of scouts around the country. On draft day last year, Ken had no idea what to expect, though several teams had expressed interest. When he was selected by Baltimore on the second day of the draft, he was slightly surprised.
“I really didn’t think they were going to draft me,” Wise said of the Orioles. ”Other teams had shown more interest and they had only come to see me like one time.” Area scouts, however, raved to scouting director Joe Jordan about what Wise brought to the table, and the birds selected him with their 18th overall pick.
Wise says he is feeling more comfortable with his body now and, with improved conditioning, has been lighting up radar guns early in camp. “The other day I was actually sitting 92-95 out of the bullpen,” he said. In addition to the fastball, Wise incorporates a power curve ball that acts like a slider. This combination of pitches, along with his history of control issues, seems to suggest a future out of the bullpen. But for now, Wise will accept whatever is asked of him.
“I have no clue,” Wise said of the Orioles plans for him. “I’m just trying to play it by ear.” Asked if he had any specific goals for the season, Wise said simply, “just trying to throw a lot of innings and throw a lot of strikes. That’s the plan.”
Regardless of where or when Wise pitches this season, hitters should be braced for some big competition.