Danny Knobler of CBS Sports spoke to two scouts who were on hand for Super Tuesday, when Matt Harvey stymied the Braves and Zack Wheeler made his long anticipated debut with six scoreless innings for a Mets doubleheader sweep in Atlanta.
“I don’t know if you’re doing a survey, but put me down for Harvey over Strasburg, and it’s not even close,” said one scout who watched the Mets right-hander’s latest great performance, Tuesday in Atlanta.
“Not even close,” another scout agreed. “He’s tougher to pick up. His stuff is more dynamic. And his slider is unhittable.”
Mets fans can say they were ahead of the curve on this one, but they won’t like the next thing both scouts said.
Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler? Again, not even close.
Both scouts who watched Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader in person listed Harvey as perhaps the most impressive pitcher they’ve seen this season. But neither came away raving about Wheeler, despite six shutout innings in his major-league debut.
One of the scouts suggested that Wheeler should still be in Triple-A, and in any case might still need a trip back to the minor leagues before he comes back for good. The other scout was even less impressed. “He’s going to be a middle-of-the-rotation guy,” the second scout said. “Edwin Jackson, maybe.”
Knobler took the debate to a scouting panel who all concurred with the first two scouts and concluded the following:
Matt Harvey: “He’s the real deal, no doubt. We all got excited about Strasburg, but you come to realize that the other guy’s just better. Harvey seems possessed. You watch him and you can tell he wants to be the best, not just on his team, not just in the National League but in all of baseball. Even Stephen Strasburg at his best wasn’t like the stuff Harvey showed Tuesday. High 90s and even 100 mph, kept it into the late innings, a slider at 91-92 that’s unhittable, and then a changeup at 85 where you just say, ‘Good luck.’ And it has late finish to it.”
Zack Wheeler: “He’s a good-looking kid with a good arm, but he looked to me like he should still be in Triple-A. It’s not all about lighting up the gun. The boxscore line looks better than how he pitched. … Even when he gets where he’s going to be, he’s not as good as Harvey. My guy feeling is that he’s always going to have to throw a lot of pitches. And everything’s hard. It’s fastball-slider, and the curve is a hard curve. And the fastball is fairly straight. He’s a nice, good piece of a rotation, but he’s not Harvey.”
Here’s the thing about these types of comparisons, and you could be sure there will be plenty more in the coming weeks, nobody really knows or has all the answers. There’s a lot of guesswork and speculation at work here. Yes, they are making these assessments based on what they do for a living, but even the best scouts are wrong 50% of the time.
Yes, we’ve all seen enough of Harvey to know he truly is the real deal. But is it really fair to Wheeler to make a judgement based on just one start?
Sure, these are scouts and most scouts make their opinions based on one glimpse of a player all the time. They know what to look for and are paid well to analyze players and report their assessments to their team’s player development and scouting departments.
But aren’t these the same scouts who had Wheeler ranked as one of the top three pitching prospects in the game six months ago?
Can their opinion of him change that drastically after just one major league start?
I’m still hoping that Harvey and Wheeler end up becoming 1A and 1B rather than 1 and 2.