Vieira has a fastball that can hit triple digits and has been solid with Class AA Arkansas this season.
Once almost released from the organization because of control issues and a career that was going nowhere slowly, Thyago Vieira will represent the Mariners in the most prestigious of prospect games during the All-Star break.
On Thursday, Vieira, a native of Brazil, was named to the World team in the 2017 Futures Game. This will be the 19th edition of the game that features the top minor league prospects from around baseball, making up a United States and a World team.
The game will be played on July 9 at Marlins Park. MLB Network will televise the game while MLB.com will offer a live stream. First pitch is set for 1 p.m.
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The rosters were selected by MLB along with input from MLB.com, Baseball America and each team. It’s a prestigious selection. Recent Mariners to participate include Tyler O’Neill (Canada) last season and Edwin Diaz (Puerto Rico) in 2015.
Vieira is the Mariners only representative this year, but he’s highly deserving. Despite a few hiccups, he has put together a solid season with Class AA Arkansas. In 24 appearances, he’s 2-2 with two saves and a 3.56 ERA. Of those 24 outings, 19 were scoreless. He’s pitched 301/3 innings, striking out 29 batters and walking 13. Over his last 19 outings, Vieira is 2-1 with a save and 1.42 ERA with opponents batting just .169 against him.
It’s been an expected rise in the organization for Vieira.
Until the 2016 season, he was just another guy that hadn’t reached his potential in the Mariners’ organization. He had a blazing fastball that sat in the upper 90s and no expectation of where it would go once it left his finger tips.
Going into spring in 2016, Vieira was 23 and had never pitched above the Low-A level in four seasons in the organization. Signed as non-drafted free agent out of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2010, he had two nondescript seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League, a decent year with short-season Everett, posting a 3.84 ERA as a starter, and two forgettable seasons with Class A Clinton as a reliever. He had trouble staying healthy and throwing strikes.
The Mariners had him on a list of possible player to be released that spring if not for major improvement. But Ethan Katz, who has been Vieira’s pitching coach the last two seasons, took him on has a special project, trying to harness his ability.
“I saw a lot of potential,” Katz said this offseason. “I saw a big arm with a lot of potential that just needed a little more time to figure it out. There was some stuff that he was doing that needed to be fixed to help him succeed.”
The two men worked daily, cleaning things up and bringing some consistency to Vieira’s mechanics while developing a viable breaking ball.
The hours of drills and work eventually led to results. Vieira had a stretch of appearances with then-Class A Bakersfield where he posted a 1.35 ERA with seven saves. In 261/3 innings, he struck out 36 batters and walked seven, holding hitters to a .179 batting average and a .414 on-base plus slugging percentage.
The breakout 2016 season earned Vieira an invitation to play in the Arizona Fall League where he flashed a 103-mph fastball and a spot on the Mariners’ 40-man roster and invite to big league spring training.