Zack Wheeler and Wil Myers: Buy Now?
Both Wheeler and Myers were high first-round talents drafted in 2009, Myers slipped to the third round due to perceived bonus demands. Despite, or perhaps because of, their elite amateur statuses both Wheeler and Myers were traded for established major league All-Stars before their own big league careers began. And now both Wheeler and Myers will make their debuts on the same day; both during double-headers.
Should we expect similar results from these two? For that a closer look is needed.
A 6-foot-4 right-hander from East Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia, Wheeler was the sixth-overall selection in 2009 by San Francisco. The Giants later shipped Wheeler to the Big Apple in exchange for Carlos Beltran at the 2011 trade deadline. Changes in organization seem to have had little effect on Wheeler’s development as he’s posted excellent numbers at just about every stop in his baseball career.
The stuff backs up the numbers. Wheeler’s fastball has been 93-95 MPH with plus-plus movement since his high school days and he regularly touches higher. He can reach back for 97-98 MPH when needed. When Wheeler commands his fastball down in the zone with his combination of plus to plus-plus velocity and better movement, it is nay on impossible to hit. Most pitchers could live on Wheeler’s fastball and below-average secondary stuff. Zack Wheeler, however, has elite breaking stuff. He throws both a slider and a curve. Wheeler’s curve is the better of the two offerings; it is a true swing-and-miss breaker. Wheeler’s slider is thrown much harder, mid-to-upper 80’s and works almost like a cutter – inducing weak contact more than misses. Wheeler’s change-up is only used occasionally and often early in counts.
On raw stuff, Wheeler stacks up with just about anyone in the big leagues. His fastball and curve are both 70 grades at their best, his slider is 55-60 and while his change-up isn’t that great as a stand alone pitch batters have to worry about his other stuff so much that it is effective when used sparingly.
Wheeler’s command and control are only average. He’ll walk a few too many batters. He’ll expand an 0-2 count to 2-2 by trying to get hitters to chase.
But finding fault with Wheeler’s resume thus far is picking nits. He’s dominated the minor leagues. He has ace-level stuff. If you want anything more you’re being greedy. Wheeler ought to be one of the premier strikeout artists in baseball soon. Given that his first start will come against the contact-averse Braves, Wheeler should post quality numbers in his first outing.
It’s important to distinguish between a prospects future potential and current ability. Just because Wheeler may become an ace in a few years doesn’t mean he is one right now. Hedges aside, Wheeler should be an above-average starter from the get-go. He has the stuff, the performance and will spend half his innings in one of the major’s best pitcher’s parks. If he’s available in your league, get him. Right now.
If you’re the type of person who reads this website I’ll assume you know the general back-story of Myers: he’s been really good in the minors, played a bunch of positions, traded for James Shields. Caught up? Good? Good.
Myers is a quality all-around athlete. Drafted as a catcher, Myers has played every spot on the diamond except shortstop and first-base and should settle into a regular corner outfield role for the Rays. Any trepidation about Myers loosing at-bats from the Rays’ propensity to platoon is mitigated by his positional flexibility. If any team is willing to be creative to find ways to get his bat into the line-up, it’s Tampa. As talented a defender as Myers is, he should be above-average in right field, playable in center and could probably man second-base better than he ever got a shot at in the minors, he’s an offensive-first player.
Myers’ current .286/.365/.520 slash line at Triple-A is good for a 132 wRC+ and represents his worst minor league production since his first foray into Double-A, when he was merely average (102 wRC+).
The one whole in Myers’ resume is the 27.6% strikeout rate he posted at Double-A. However, those whiffs came in only 152 plate appearances so we’re talking about a small sample size. Myers stuck out 24.6% of the time in Triple-A this year, though his month-to-month numbers show progress (28.0% K in April, 25.6% K in May, 16.7% K in June).
Myers’ swing doesn’t leave the bat in the zone a super-long time and as a power-hitter he’ll likely always have an above-average strikeout rate. But the overall mechanics of his swing are sound; Myers does have an impressive pure hit tool. He won’t win a batting title, but Myers isn’t the kind of hitter who K’s because he simply can’t hit good pitching. He should evolve into a .270-.280 hitter with big power.
Myers should develop into a .275 hitter who walks enough to keep his on-base percentage above-average, hist 30 bombs and maybe swipes 10-15 bags.
That’s the player Wil Myers should be a few a years, however expecting that from him out of the shoot is folly. Maybe he goes all Puig on everyone, but Myers has needed to get his feet wet at each new level before taking off. He struggled in his first go-round at Double-A. He struggled to being this year. There’s always going to be a little swing-and-miss in his game and Myers will be facing the best pitchers he’s ever seen, all for the first time. Given that you’re only going to get a half-season worth of playing time from him, Myers may only post something like .250/.320/.435 with 10 homers and a couple steals the rest of the way. That’s a decent player, but not an elite one. Myers still has much more value in a dynasty keeper league than a traditional year-to-year format. Unless you’re starving for outfield help, Myers isn’t likely to give you much right away.