Video Flashback: Zack Wheeler

Lets hop back in the Way-Back Machine to Spring Training 2012.
Watch to the end to learn what Wheeler did for fun that off-season…

The Zack Wheeler Era Begins

Toby Hyde, Mets Minor League Blog:

The Zack Wheeler era begins tonight in Atlanta.

Is this the start of new era? Yes and no, but more no, than yes. David Wright’s consistent excellence aside, Matt Harvey’s brilliance has been the storyline over the season’s first half that makes Mets’ fans hope that there can be a playoff berth at the end of this 2013 mess. As of 7 pm tonight, it will become the Wright/Harvey/Wheeler era. Soon, Travis d’Arnaud, a fourth potential All-Star will join the mix. This is simply the next step.

Wheeler has an electric arm. He is 94-96 with a fastball with big time explosion out of his hand. Given his adrenaline for his debut, I almost expect multiple 98 mph offerings. His slider can be a wipeout pitch down in the zone. His curveball can be vicious. However, at times he has trouble throwing his breaking stuff for strikes and keeping it in the zone. At best, the changeup is ordinary. In 2013, it will not be a major piece of his arsenal. His fastball command is nothing special. In the minors, he often survived and thrived, on the velocity without needing to locate the pitch precisely. In the big leagues, he will get away with fewer mistakes. However, his natural ability will carry him through.

Piece-by-piece the Mets are shedding the useless and adding. A major piece joins the team tonight. Wheeler is here.

Scouting Types on Wheeler

LinkPresented basically without comment:

Keith Law at ESPN:

A scout I spoke to who saw him recently said that Wheeler’s curveball, once a plus pitch in my view, was just average for him as Wheeler was throwing both a curveball and a slider and seemed to be caught between the two of them.

He still has plenty to recommend him, as he works with plus velocity and fills up the strike zone, with just 12 walks in his past eight starts, but I’d like to see him settle on just one breaking ball so he can miss bats in the majors the way he has done in the minors so far.

The thing is that Wheeler’s two breaking balls both have their uses. I do not buy that he should focus only on one. 

 

Mark Anderson and Bret Sayre at Baseball Prospectus are much more positive about Wheeler’s breaking pitches:

His bread and butter is a mid-90s fastball that can reach 97-98 without losing the natural life that makes it a true plus-plus offering. His fastball jumps out of his hand and can explode in on right-handed hitters. Wheeler has struggled with maintaining his angle and working low in the zone in the past but he made significant strides in that regard this year.

His curveball is the feature secondary pitch sitting in the low- to mid-70s with tight rotation and hard break. After years of scouts projecting his curveball out to plus-plus levels, Wheeler finally put it together this year with consistent 70-grade hammers that buckled the knees of PCL hitters. His slider is a harder offering, sitting in the upper-80s and featuring multiple looks. He can vary the sharpness and tilt of the pitch without sacrificing velocity, giving him an unpredictable weapon that marries well with the rest of his power arsenal.

 

At Fangraphs, Marc Hulet saw Wheeler in Fresno on June 1. Wheeler’s line that day: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. 

He flashed his mid-90s velocity and two breaking balls but his changeup was seldom used, which disappointed me given that it was identified as something he needed to work on in 2013. The first curveball he threw during the game was quite possibly his best and he struggled to command both his curve and fastball throughout the contest. He telegraphed the curveball early in the game and slowed his arm down but it was less noticeable as the game progressed. His slider was average but I’d like to see a tighter break to it.

Wheeler’s fastball showed good velocity but his command of the pitch was average-at-best.

I expect him to be susceptible to the home runs at the big league level because of his lack of consistent fastball command in the upper half of the strike zone.

Emphasis added.

Selected Zack Wheeler Reading

LinkIn the Star-Ledger, Jorge Castillo looks at 15-year-old Zack Wheeler who could not make the East Cobb travel team and his conversations with his brother and family that led up to his MLB debut.

At Minorleagueball, John Sickels named Zack Wheeler his “Prospect of the Day.”  His conclusion: “Overall, even if he doesn’t get there right away, Wheeler projects as a number two starter.” Here’s the thing: if Wheeler reaches his full potential, he’s a #1, a legitimate ace – his fastball, slider and curve are that good. There’s nothing wrong with a good #2 and that might be his middle of the road projection, and that’s a marvelous thing.

At NorthJersey.com, Mike Kerwick focuses on Steve Kline, Wheeler’s former pitching coach advice,  for his debut: “Don’t look up.”

At ESPN.com, Mark Simon has this ominous fact among many other fun ones: “Visiting starters are 0-7 with three no-decisions when making their major league debut at Turner Field.”

Last week, at the Daily News, Andy Martino wrote about difficulty his coaches and teammates have had trying to understand the naturally quiet, reserved Wheeler. Here’s the important part: the arm is special.

At MLB.com, Anthony DiComo has a chart of other important, Mets pitching prospect debuts.

It’s Almost Zack Wheeler Time…

Wheeler (Baron)So, after a good start for Las Vegas Saturday, Sunday there were stories in nearly every major outlet that the Mets are close to calling up RHP Zack Wheeler to make his big league debut.

At CBSsports.com Jon Heyman says that Wheeler might be up after one more start: “may in fact make only one more start for Triple-A Las Vegas before his promotion, according to people connected to the team…”

In the Daily News, Kristie Ackert has Mets’ Assistant GM John Ricco saying that Wheeler is “getting close.”  By the way, it’s nice of Ackert to cite her source rather than relying on Heyman’s mysterious “people.”

In the Post, Mike Puma thinks Wheeler “is expected to make his major league debut as soon as the Mets’ next homestand.”

At MLB.com, Anthony DiComo reads the tea leaves, as suggesting, based on a talk with Terry Collins that “All signs continue to point to Wheeler making his debut in two weeks, when the Mets play five games in four days in Atlanta.”

Adam Rubin of ESPNNY is on the same next homestand train, tweeting “If you’re taking an educated guess, Cubs series June 14-16 at Citi Field does seem like most likely series for Zack Wheeler’s MLB debut.”

The Mets’ next homestand runs from June 7 through the 16 and features the Mets-killing Marlins, the Cardinals (June 11-13) and the Cubs (June 14-16). DiComo, who is the only one to suggest that the Mets will have Wheeler open in Atlanta, is targeting the Mets’ Braves series on June 17-20, with a doubleheader on June 18.

Upper Minors Saturday: Zack Wheeler Strong in AAA; Rafael Montero Dominant in AA

AAA: Las Vegas 51s 2, Fresno Grizzlies (SF) 1 

Wheeler Vegas HeadRHP Zack Wheeler put together his first quality start in his three tries since his return from a right shoulder strain. His line: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. He threw 65% of his pitches for strikes. Wheeler’s line in his last three starts: 15 IP, 12 H, 9 R, 7 ER, 4 HR, 6 BB, 12 K. He’s getting closer, and the Super Two deadline is getting close and the Mets have need in their rotation. However, given that he gave up two homers in each of his last two starts before Saturday, I still think he’ll get a few – like three – more starts for Vegas.

CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis homered again, his eighth in 31 games in AAA. He’s gotten hot in a big way: in his last 11 games, he’s hit .293/.431/.756 with one double and six homers, 10 walks and 10 strikeouts.

A night after getting plunked Friday, 2B Wilmer Flores did not play Saturday.

 

AA: Binghamton Mets 6, @ New Hampshire Fisher Cats (TOR) 0  

Ho-hum, seven more shutout innings for Rafael Montero. His line: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K and 69% strikes (70 of 102). In his two starts back in AA since a solid sport start in AAA, he’s done this: 13 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 12 K. That’s a pretty good way to earn a more lasting assignment to AAA.

2B Danny Muno, snapped a 24-at-bat hitless skid with a three-hit night, including a homer. The 24-year-old is hitting .210/.353/.324 in his first 52 games in AA.

After one homer in the month of May, RF/LF Cory Vaughn equaled that in his first game in June by going 3-for-5 with a double and a homer, his sixth of 2013. Vaughn finished May at .280/.344/.354 with three doubles and one homer and is now hitting .295/.374/.458 just past his 24th birthday.

Law: Wheeler #15 Prospect in Baseball

Wheeler Vegas HeadAt ESPN, Keith Law has reordered his Top 25 prospects in baseball and moved Zack Wheeler exactly ZERO spots since his pre-season list when he also had Wheeler #15.

His comment in part:

He has top-of-the-rotation stuff, and after a few wild outings early in the year, including one in which he walked six guys, he has walked just five in his past four outings.

The Week in Wheeler

Wheeler Vegas HeadZack Wheeler made two starts in the last seven days after missing a start with a sore shoulder. He returned in Iowa and lasted five innings, walking two and striking out two. In his subsequent start at hom against Salt Lake, he allowed five runs, three earned on three walks, four hits and two homers in four innings.

His combined line in his last two starts: 9 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 4 HR, 1 HBP, 5 BB, 6 K. It’s the PCL and all, but that’s not good. It’s not the kind of thing that says, “Hey, this top prospect is ready for the big leagues.” And that’s fine. He was coming off a down period. In Iowa, he threw like one slider in the first inning, and did not use his curveball until the second inning.

And yet, as quoted by Andy Martino in the Daily News, a Mets person said Wheeler was “ready.”

Howard Megdal uses Kevin Gausman’s MLB debut to remind everyone that most pitching prospects do struggle and thus, “it is important to temper expectations when [Wheeler] gets here.”

Also, the New York Post claimed Wheeler big-timed a Las Vegas reporter. That surely could have been handled better.

 

Misc: Zack Wheeler Was Rusty; Rainy Lara Promoted

Rusty Wheels
Wheeler Vegas HeadZack Wheeler told the New York Post that “nothing” was working in his return to the mound after a two-week hiatus to calm an inflamed shoulder. His full comment:

“Honestly, nothing was working real well for me today. Taking 10 days off and missing a start this late in the season and coming back as sharp as you were is tough. I left some pitches over the plate and paid for it. They hit a lot of balls hard. Later in the game, I started getting a little better feel. The last two innings I was getting my shoulder more squared to the plate and, as a result, I was more down in the zone.

An “evaluator” which could be a scout or a higher level front office type seemed more impressed by Wheeler than Wheeler:

“He pitched like 95-97 most of the time and then it was raining,” the evaluator said. “When it started to rain harder his velocity came down a little bit, but he threw good.”

 


PROMOAT
RHP Rainy Lara has been promoted from Savannah to St. Lucie. At the time of his promotion (today) Lara was leading the SAL in ERA (1.42) and fewest baserunners per nine innings among starters (7.99). He was third in innings pitched (50.2) and second in WHIP (0.89).

Lara mostly throws 90-91 from the right side although he will get to 92 once most nights and one a good night and 93 on a better night, but he works at 90-91. He complements that with a slider and a changeup. The slider is below average now, but he has feel for it, and throws it a lot. Multiple scouts have told me they can see Lara pitching in the big leagues – either in middle relief or at the back end of a rotation. It’s nothing sexy, but cheap pitching is better than either alternative: expensive pitching or no pitching.

 


Badass Bearcats

The University of Cincinnati Baseball team crushes their post-game interviews. This is supposed to be fun, after all.

Zack Wheeler Has “Mild” Shoulder Inflammation

Wheeler (Baron)Zack Wheeler complained of some soreness near his collarbone, and was diagnosed with a “mild inflammation of the AC joint in the shoulder.” The doctors gave him a cortisone shot, told him not to throw for 48 hours and sent him back to Las Vegas, where he will miss one start, but hopefully no more.

Post exam, Wheeler tweeted:

Assistant GM John Ricco on Wheeler and his potential MLB callup:

He’s progressing, and I think the results have shown that. I don’t think there’s any one magic thing we’re looking for. We talk on a start-by-start basis and we’ll make a decision based on when we think the time is right.

And on the trip to New York and the medical exam:

“We were somewhat conservative by having him checked out. But I still think it was the right decision.”

No argument here. Allowing Wheeler, or any other pitcher to pitch through shoulder discomfort is counterproductive.