Considering he’s only thrown a single inning at the major league level in his career, it’s not a surprise that many folks are wondering who 24-year old Brazilian pitcher Thyago Vieira is, or why the White Sox gave up $500,000 in international bonus pool money to the Seattle Mariners for him. The Mariners are currently trying to expand their bonus pool money as much as possible in hopes that they will be able to make Japanese pitching sensation Shohei Ohtani a lucrative enough offer to land him in Seattle.
With the signing of outfield prospect Luis Robert earlier this season, the White Sox currently have a hard cap on what they can spend for a prospect internationally. However, the Sox still have nearly $5 million in pool money, making the concept of giving $500,000 to the Mariners in exchange for a rough-around-the-edges middle reliever isn’t hard for one to wrap their head around. GM Rick Hahn stated before the season ended that trading bonus pool money for prospects was certainly on the table due to the restrictions that the team has from the Robert signing.
Vieira’s most lethal asset is certainly his fastball, which sits consistently at 100 mph and has touched as high as 104 mph in the 2016 Arizona Fall League.
“Yeah, I remember the day before I saw the World Series championship and I saw Chapman throwing on the TV that night before and he’s throwing like 104, and I said “Oh, I’m going to do this the next day,” Vieira told Baseball America’s John Manuel. “So the next day I prepared myself and I said I’m going to throw how hard I can here, that’s why I hit 104. When the guys saw me, I didn’t believe them but then I saw it on like Twitter and the other pages and they said “Wow he’s hitting 104, that’s amazing.”
Vieira isn’t completely refined or finished product just yet though. He will be 25 once spring training begins, and still needs to work on finding comfort with a secondary pitch. Vieira has worked with a slider that lacks command, and according to Baseball America, has been working on his splitter and changeup. In order to continue to contribute effectively at the major league level in 2018, Vieira will need to create a strong foundation on at least one secondary pitch to play off his fastball. There’s no such thing as a successful one-pitch pitcher, even if that one pitch can reach 104 mph.
During 2017 Vieira spent 36.1 innings in Double-A and 17.2 innings in Triple-A with the Mariners. His strikeout rate reached a decent 23 percent in Double-A, but coupled with a nearly 10 percent walk rate, Vieira’s command issues began to surface. Once joining Triple-A, Vieira’s strikeout rate dipped to just 14.3 percent while his walk rate hovered around 9 percent.
If any organization is known for being able to harness young flame-throwing pitchers though, it’s certainly the White Sox, and if any team needs a hard-throwing pitcher to bridge the gap that was left in the bullpen last season at the hand of trades, it’s the White Sox.
“My favorite pitchers are like Chapman because he’s aggressive,” Vieira told Cut4 in July. “But for the emotion I liked Jose Fernandez and I like Roberto Osuna too because I love a lot of emotion. That’s how I play too.”
Vieira has a smile that’s as outstanding as the triple digits he puts up on the gun, and the work ethic to match. Perhaps with a little bit of magic and hard work, the White Sox will be able to make yet another diamond in the rough out of Vieira.