30 Prospects in 30 Days: Zack Wheeler – SP – New York Mets
When the Mets acquired Zack Wheeler for free agent-to-be Carlos Beltran in July of 2011, GM Sandy Alderson was praised by the masses in New York. At the time, Wheeler was considered San Francisco’s top pitching prospect. Now the Mets’ top pitching prospect, he has spent the past two seasons cruising through the minor leagues and should make his Citi Field debut at some point in 2013.
Wheeler spent most of 2012 with AA Binghamton before getting called up to AAA Buffalo at the beginning of August. There was a spike in his walk rate, but he was able to keep his WHIP and ERA steady, showing Mets brass that he was up to the challenge. Further, he gave up just four (four!) home runs in 149 total innings.
Wheeler’s fastball sits in the mid-90s, but he can dial it up to 97-98 mph when necessary. Scouts rave about his big curve but seem to be in agreement that his change needs some work. If and when the change-up develops, the sky is the limit for the tall right-hander. And at just 22 years old, there’s still plenty of time for development.
With the Mets facing an uphill battle in 2013, there probably won’t be a reason for Alderson to rush Wheeler to the big leagues. The likely scenario is that he pitches for the Las Vegas 51s – the Mets’ new AAA affiliate – until September, although it’s not impossible that a strong start convinces Alderson to bring him up early. We’re assuming the Mets want to see Wheeler throw 160-180 combined innings in 2012.
It’s unlikely that he will be fantasy-relevant in 2013, but owners in long-term keeper leagues should pay close attention to Wheeler’s progress. Expectations are that the 51s’ Opening Day battery of Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud will be a Citi Field mainstay in the not-too-distant future.
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