Full Name: Zachary Harrison Wheeler
Listed at 6’4” and 185 lbs
Born May 30th, 1990 in Smyrna, GA
Drafted By: San Francisco Giants #6 overall in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft
Signed with the Giants for a bonus of $3.3 million
Traded to Mets On July 27th, 2011 in exchange for OF Carlos Beltran
Ranked #35 on Baseball America’s 2011 Midseason Top 50 Prospects List
Ranked #1 Mets prospect by Baseball America and St Lucie To Flushing after 2011 season
2011 Stats in High-A San Jose (SF) / High-A St Lucie (NYM):
9-7 record 3.52 ERA 115 innings 100 hits 7 home runs 52 walks 129 strikeouts. 1.32 WHIP, 7.8 hits/9, 0.5 home runs/9, 4.1 walks/9, 10.1 strikeouts/9.
Coming out of high school in Georgia, Zack Wheeler was ranked the 12th best prospect in the 2009 draft by Baseball America. This was BA’s report on him:
Lean with long levers. Wheeler generates excellent arm speed and can produce mid-90s heat with his fastball, sitting in the low 90s. He has the athleticism and solid mechanics to produce average big league command. Wheeler pitches off his fastball and puts hitters away with a power breaking ball, most accurately called a slurve. It has late bite and depth, giving him a second plus pitch. Wheeler doesn’t throw much of a changeup at this point.
Since then Wheeler has added a slider and a cutter to his repertoire. His fastball and curve are both considered to be “plus” pitches while his slider, cutter and change-up are not as advanced. I’ve heard from people in St Lucie that Wheeler was a very hard worker that is willing to throw any pitch in any count and has a commitment to improving every pitch in his arsenal. Wheeler has also gotten high praise as a teammate and person off the field from Mets people as well as other players.
There are two things about Wheeler that raise concern to some. In 2010 he walked 5.8 per 9 with Low-A Augusta and in San Jose this year he walked 4.8 per 9 before his move to the Mets and in 27 innings walked only 1.7 per 9. Wheeler has said that the Giants had altered his mechanics some which led to some high walk numbers. Towards the end of his stay with the Giants organization and into his beginning with the Mets he has went back to his high school mechanics. He is now more comfortable and able to just pitch rather than worrying about this and that in the mechanics. I won’t say the 1.7 BB/9 will remain constant but I don’t think you’ll see him going into near 5 BB/9 rate he had in 2010 and the first half of 2011.
The second thing is in his mechanics. Wheeler does the “inverted W” (why the heck it isn’t called the M is beyond me) which according to experts could lead to shoulder trouble down the road. I am not a pitching coach so I am in no room to critique anyone’s mechanics. But I have spoken to people who can and they say the concerns over Wheeler’s mechanics are over blown. He incorporates a lot of lower body which takes some stress off the arm. I was also told that there are plenty of pitchers with this inverted W who have not gotten hurt and been fine. It is more dependent on the person than just saying inverted W = shoulder injury coming.
The wide expectation among experts, scouts and others is that Wheeler has the make-up and the stuff to be a #1 starter in the big leagues one day. Wheeler is expected to begin the 2012 season with Double-A Binghamton where I hope to be able to check out a couple starts of his to provide video, pictures and any notes I can gather on him. The right move would be to let Wheeler spend the entire 2012 season with Double-A. For me his ETA for the big leagues should be sometime in 2013. If you don’t already follow him, you can follow Zack on Twitter @Wheelerpro45.