MLB Young Guns: Zack Wheeler Scouting Report

An article by posted on June 18, 2013

zack wheeler usa today

The Mets plan to temporarily demote Zack Wheeler to the minors after tonight’s start, then officially re-promote him Tuesday for his next scheduled start at the Chicago White Sox, according to ESPN New York.

Because Wheeler is technically the Mets’ 26th player for today’s doubleheader, they can demote him after today’s game without the requirement he spend 10 days in the minors before returning applying. No option will be burned by Wheeler’s procedural, temporary minor league assignment. That also means Wheeler will not collect MLB service time between starts, further ensuring he will not qualify for an extra year of arbitration as a Super 2.

Lets take one last look at this young gun before he takes the hill for his debut…

Zack (Harrison) Wheeler was born on May 30th, 1990 in Smyrna, Georgia. As a high school player, he attended East Paulding where he compiled a 95-36 record as a varsity athlete over four seasons. His junior year he had eights wins against three losses and had 127 strikeouts over 64 1/3 innings and pitched to a 1.31 ERA. The following season (2009), Wheeler finished undefeated  9-0, with 151 Ks over 77 2/3 IP and a 0.54 ERA.

Zach Wheeler, top pitching prospect of the New York Mets, makes his debut on Tuesday night. Here is is as a high school ball player.

A scouting report by Perfect Game at the time read

Big projection, 90-93 fastball at Perfect Game National, very effortless, three quality pitches, good command, 94 at WWBA, 92 at ECP, up to 95 at Aflac.

Scouting reports of Wheeler, along with his overall body of work as an amateur player were enough to convince the San Francisco Giants to draft him sixth overall in the 2009 MLB Draft.

He started his professional career in 2010 at the Single-A level for the Augusta GreenJackets. Relative to his high school numbers, he disappointed as he went 3-3 with a 3.99 ERA in 58 2.3 IP. However he did have 70 Ks, which proved that his stuff was there, but his command needed some work.

The following season, he began at Advanced A San Jose, an affiliate of the Giants, but then moved onto the St. Lucie Mets after he was traded for Carlos Beltran. As a Met, he pitched 27 innings with 31 Ks and a 2.00 ERA, but as a Giant he had near a 3.99 ERA in 88 IP with 98 Ks.

He began 2012 with Double-A Binghamton and was promoted to Triple-A Buffalo toward the end of the season where he logged 33 innings and pitched to a respectable 3.27 ERA as a 22-year-old.

In 2013, as the number one prospect for the Mets, he started in Las Vegas (the new AAA affiliate of the Mets). His walk rate dropped from 2012 to 2013 and his K/9 rose from 8.5 to 9.6 despite a rough beginning and a month long acclimation period to the Pacific Coast League. After a string of solid starts, the Mets front office called made the decision to promote him to make his MLB debut in the night-cap of today’s doubleheader against the Braves.

Profile:

At 6’4, 185 lbs, Wheeler has a power pitcher’s body and possesses an “easy” throwing motion that allows him to maintain a high velocity throughout the game. His long arms creates deception and his quick arm action compounds this. On top of that, he comes out of his pitching motion in good fielding position.

One of his best attributes is his work ethic and demeanour on the mound. His has a competitive nature drives him to work very hard in between starts and is known to be a student of the game. He is also aggressive, as he is not afraid to pitch inside.

Pitches:

Fastball: High: 97-98 mph, Averages: 94-95, Has life and appears to explode past hitters when he throws it up the ladder. Throws a four-seamer and a two seamer he uses against righthanded hitters. Both are plus-pitches.

Curveball: 12-6 break and another plus-pitch. Does not command it in or out of the zone yet, but that will come in time.

Change-up: Throws it in the mid-80s.  As of now it is a slightly below average pitch, and he often telegraphs the pitch because it “slows” his arm down.

Cutter: Relatively new pitch. Throws it in the upper 80s.  It has good movement, but it is pretty raw. Again, it probably will not ever be a better-than-average pitch.

From all indications, scouts view Wheeler as a number two starter. The main issue is his lack of a solid third offering as well as spotty command. While both situations have improved since joining the Mets, he still has work to do.

Wheeler has a great work ethic and is dedicated to his continued improvement. I would bet money that he gets to that ceiling, but that remains to be seen. I am really excited to see him pitch tonight as we all catch a glimpse of one of the cornerstones of the Mets’ future.

For more MLB Young Gun profiles and other sport headlines, check out my blog, Whose Sports Blog Is It Anyway?

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