ZiPS: Zack Wheeler Owns the #1 Rookie Pitcher Projection

Wheeler Follow ThroughHow good will Zack Wheeler be? According to Carson Cistulli, who combed through Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS¬†projections, Wheeler owns the best projection of any pitcher with rookie eligibility.

ZiPS forecasts Wheeler at: 141.2 IP, 8.6 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9, 1.9 WAR.

This is a fun contrast to yesterday’s Keith Law post leaving Wheeler out of his 20 top impact rookies. However, the question here is one of opportunity again. Is Wheeler likely to get as many as 141.2 innings in the big leagues? I’d doubt that. Starting pitching appears to be a strength of the 2013 Mets. But pitchers get hurt. That’s what they do. At some point, there will be a rotation opening for Wheeler. And if no one gets hurt, someone will get traded (hint: for an outfielder).

There’s also the case from last year. Matt Harvey threw 59.1 innings in the big leagues in 2012 after 110 in AAA. However, Wheeler, with six starts and 33 innings at AAA at the end of 2012, is at least a little ahead of Harvey’s progress through the system at this time last year. Also, Wheeler is coming off a 2012 in which he threw 149 innings total.

Given how cautious the Mets are about increasing the innings pitched by their young hurlers, it’s hard to see Wheeler throwing about 185 innings in 2013. He averaged 6.1 innings per start in AA last year and 5.5 in AAA. Lets split the difference and give him 5.8 innings per start over 10 AAA starts taking him to 58 innings before the Mets would call him up, at the earliest. That gives him a max of about 120 innings in the big leagues in 2013, depending of course on his own performance and health, and that of the rotation in front of him.

So that leaves Wheeler as likely to throw between 70 and 120 Major League innings in 2013, which is certainly something for Mets fans to look forward to.

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