Zack Wheeler and the First Cuts

scissorsSunday, the Mets reassigned Zack Wheeler and nine other guys to minor league camp in the first cuts of the spring. Usually, these are cuts for guys who have zero chance of making the team, and nine of the 10 guys fit this profile.

There was player sent to the backfields who was moderately surprising (like in a very mild way) Collin¬†McHugh. Why surprising? Well, he has big league experience. The 25-year old made four starts and four relief appearances in August and September 2012. He was hit hard in those appearances, yielding a 7.59 ERA on 27 hits, five homers and 21 runs in 21.1 innings. His strikeout to walk rate was a solid 2.13 (17 K/8 BB). In 4.2 innings this spring… Scratch that last sentence, nothing useful can come of it.

I thought McHugh had an outside chance to make the big league roster out of spring training if there was an injury to one of the five rotation regulars and he outperformed Jeremy Hefner. The first part of the last sentence is sort of happening. The second part has not. ¬†While Johan Santana is not hurt, but he’s not exactly a healthy pitcher, and seems “likely” ticketed for the disabled list to start the season. Ted Berg tells everyone to shut up, stop worrying and appreciate the man. The Mets will need a fifth starter for the first time on Sunday, April 7th at the latest. I had figured that the Mets would want to keep multiple options in camp for that spot. Now, McHugh’s demotion more or less clears the way for Hefner if Santana cannot go.

Zack Wheeler thought that his minor oblique injury had something to do with the fact that he was sent down to minor league camp. That’s kinda cute, but the reality is that he had no chance to break camp with the Mets in 2013. None. Do not forget that last year in AAA, he averaged 5.5 innings per start over his six starts and walked 12% of the batters he faced (MLB average is 8%). These facts are related. He was walking too many batters, and throwing too many batters to succeed in the big leagues. Sure, the stuff, the fastball, the slider, and the curveball all are potentially plus Major League pitches. He just must harness them better.

Now, the other eight:
Hansel Robles – I touched on Robles last week. The bottom line is that he was in short-season Brooklyn last year. He was four levels from the big leagues.
Gonzalez Germen – The 25-year old was a below average starter in AA last year putting up a 4.59 ERA and a 5.4 R/9 where the Eastern League average was 3.91 and 4.30 respectively.
Elvin Ramirez – Three walks in 3.2 innings in spring training after 20 walks in 21.1 innings in the big leagues last year. He’s in mid-season form.
Darin Gorski – An average year at AA, earned Gorski a ticket to Las Vegas, not the big leagues.
Reese Havens – Oh boy. Coming off a .215/.340/.351 season as a 25-year old, Havens put together a 1-for-11 start in big league spring training while playing statuesque defense.
Juan Legares – An OK 2012 in AA earned him a nod to AAA Las Vegas, not the big leagues. As a right-handed hitting outfielder, keep Lagares in mind if he can figure out his approach. He can play all three outfield positions, although he’s better in a corner. I have a sneaking suspicion he will make his big league debut in 2013.
Wilfredo Tovar – The defensive specialist heads back to the minors after hitting .254/.308/.332 in half a season in double-A where he will probably begin 2013 playing everyday.
Cesar Puello – A .260/.328/.423 performance in 66 games in advanced-A in his age 20/21 season makes a weak case for a promotion to AA, but no kind of argument for a big league gig. He’s on the line between AA and a repeat of advanced-A this year.

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