Ashley Marshall of MiLB.com conducted an interview with Mets top prospect Zack Wheeler hos weighs in on a variety of topics ranging from when he was drafted to his mechanics. Here is a small sampling of the Q&A and I encourage you to check out the entire interview here.
MiLB.com: Considering the work you’ve been doing with your breaking pitches, how would you rate your slider and curve compared with your fastball?
Wheeler: I’d never been able to throw a curve ball or anything really. I threw a pretty good one in high school, scouts said, but once you get up to where I am now people will be hitting it. My fastball is my best pitch and it’s up in the air after that. I throw the curve ball at certain times and I throw the slider at certain times.
They’re both pretty good now. I can use my curve for strike three or I could use it to set a guy up early in the count and then come back with a harder slider or a fastball. I hope to be able to use it a bunch of different ways. That’s what I’m trying to figure out right around now so that I can be prepared later on.
MiLB.com: What do you still need to do with your curve to get it ready for the season?
Wheeler: I need to work on location, that’s about it. The pitch is how I want it. It doesn’t have a huge loop, but it has a lot of break. It comes in on the same plane as my fastball. I just need to learn how to locate it whenever I want. It’s not like I’m not throwing it for strikes, I just want to be able to locate it better.
I also want to work with my change-up a lot more to keep my walks down. For about two games before I left San Jose — and all the time in Port St. Lucie — I went back to my old mechanics that I was using in high school and I think it showed. My [pitches per] inning went down, but my strikeout numbers stayed the same and my strikeout-to-walk ratio was better. I think it’s going to help going back to those mechanics.
MiLB.com: What’s the difference between your high school mechanics and the motion you were using at the start of last year?
Wheeler: Before, the Giants had me slow down. I’m a tall lanky guy, so if I slow down, my arms start dragging. I might be out in front of myself, but my arms are dragging behind me so the ball is high or my curve is just loopy or whatever. When I went back to my old mechanics, everything just flowed a lot easier. I bring my hands up higher, I bring my knee up higher and everything flows together.
It comes out of my hand easy and it has movement. Before, I had the same velocity, but the ball was straight so people were hitting it and I couldn’t figure out why. Then finally I just thought I should go back to my old stuff.
MiLB.com: When you were slowing down, did that make it harder to hit a consistent release point?
Wheeler: It made everything difficult. Whenever you slow down your mechanics, it slows your arm down. I had the same velocity, but mentally while I was doing it I was counting “one … two … three” all throughout my motion, and that’s hard to do when you’re out there trying to pitch and throw. You don’t want to be thinking about your mechanics, you just want to let it come naturally.