Name: Zack Wheeler
Notable 2011 Stats: 3.99 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 7 HRA, 47 BB, 98 K, and 51% GB% in 88 IP with San Jose (High-A);
2.00 ERA, 1.68 FIP, 0 HRA, 5 BB, 31 K, and 53% GB% in 27 IP with St. Lucie (High-A);
3.52 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 7 HRA, 52 BB, 129 K, and 52% GB% in 115 IP total
Why He’s This High: Wheeler had a solid year in High-A, and particularly busted out after being traded to the Mets in the Carlos Beltran trade, making six fantastic starts for their St. Lucie affiliate down the stretch.
Unlike fellow Mets hotshot arm Jeurys Familia (who ranks #54 on my list), Wheeler has smooth mechanics that give him good line to the plate and should allow him to be durable; the only mechanical issue is a bit of an “Inverted W” in his motion.
He boasts a good three-pitch mix that’s somewhat reminiscent of Trevor Cahill‘s–a hard sinker, big curveball, and improving changeup. His ability to pitch down in the strike zone has given him excellent groundball numbers his whole career, and the movement on his pitches allows him to miss plenty of bats. He could be analogous to Cahill or a righthanded Ricky Romero with his arsenal, and could serve as an excellent #2 starter in the big leagues.
Why He’s This Low: The movement on his pitches has led Wheeler to miss the strike zone a whole lot during his career. It’s great that he stopped doing that once he was traded to New York, but six starts can’t erase the concerns after Wheeler walked 5.8 batters per nine innings in 2010 and 4.7 in the Giants’ system this year.
If he can’t consistently throw strikes, Wheeler could end up as merely a power reliever or a righthanded version of another now-former Giants starter, Jonathan Sanchez.
Wheeler only worked 58 2/3 innings in 2010 and 115 this season, so he’s got a lot of stamina to build before he shows he can make it through a full big-league campaign. While his frame suggests durability, particularly once he fills out, “looking durable” doesn’t guarantee that a pitcher will actually follow through on that. Injuries can strike in weird places, after all.
Conclusions: Wheeler made some nice strides this season, and his arsenal of pitches suggests that he could evolve into a well-above-average starting pitcher, but he’ll need to prove a) that he can hold up for a full season and b) that he can maintain his control for a whole season. His immediate improvement upon switching organizations is a positive sign, and he looks like a great acquisition for a Mets team that is still building toward the future. There’s obvious upside here, and if he can erase the two lingering concerns about him in 2012, Wheeler could become one of the top pitching prospects in the game.
Check out all of the Seedlings To Stars 2012 Top 100 Prospects here!
For more on the Mets, check out Rising Apple!
Follow us on Twitter: Nathaniel (@stoltz_baseball), Wally (@thebaseballfish), James (@JAYRC_MCB) and Joe (@ReleasePoints). You can also keep up to date with all things S2S by following the site on Twitter (@Seedlings2Stars) or liking our Facebook page.