After finding his stride and dominating Cal League hitters out of the pen in 2016, the Brazilian native is now very much on the Mariners’ radar, and he’s currently here in Arizona being tested against slightly more concentrated competition. Vieira has a thick muscular frame and has some effort and funk in the delivery. He keeps the front side closed for a long time before coming right over the top with his max-effort arm action. Even with his big velocity, he doesn’t have a real quick arm – but he gets great angle and with his long arms, and it seems as though he is reaching out and placing the ball in the catcher’s mitt. He typically sits in the high 90’s with the fastball (and was up to 99 mph earlier this summer in Bakersfield during a series vs. Lancaster), but he sat 98-to-101 mph last week in his AFL debut, vs. the Mesa Solar Sox. He doesn’t have big movement on the pitch, but does have some late hop and really has it get heavy when he is locating down in the zone. In addition to the fastball, Vieira’s curveball is a hammer, with the ingredients to be plus, and with 11-to-5 snap. He has not been consistent with the pitch in the past, but this year seems to have figured out that he does not need to be perfect with it, and is now throwing it rather than aiming it.
Leading up to this season, Thyago’s main enemy was his inability to throw strikes with any kind of consistency, erasing any advantage his power stuff provided. He put up 6.39 K/9 and 5.81 BB/9 rates in his second year in the Midwest League in 2015, and the ratios were not much better in 2014 with 10.02 K/9 and 6.10 BB/9. However, 2016 saw him focus on really driving the ball to the bottom of the zone and worrying less about giving up contact. This resulted in his groundball rate going from 0.80, 0.74 and 0.97 in 2013-15 to 1.63 in 2016. The adjustment here I believe led to increased confidence working in the zone which ultimately resulted in 3.65 BB/9, 10.76 K/9 and less than a hit per inning over 44 ⅓ innings pitched. Vieira will start the 2017 at 23 years old, and with his 80-grade fastball and future 60-grade curveball in his arsenal, if he can even get to 40-grade command with the fastball, he should be able to replicate this recent success as he climbs the ladder and reach his ceiling of a Role 50 setup reliever. If Viera turns in a solid AFL performance, I expect him to be in big league camp in March, and start 2017 in Double-A. Check out my full report here.