Jeff Zimmerman of Fangraphs offered a somewhat pessimistic outlook on Zack Wheeler and his upcoming 2014 season.
Zimmerman cites two major factors that he believes could significantly limit Wheeler’s success: his walk rate, and his shoulder tightness that forced him to miss his final start last year. Wheeler’s walk rate in 2013 was 4.1, a figure Zimmerman believes needs to drop roughly 25% for the Mets star prospect to remain a solid major league pitcher.
As for the injury, Zimmerman cites the fact that the 23-year old experienced shoulder tightness after only pitching in nine more innings from ’12 to ’13. Zimmerman went on to say that he believes 180 innings is a max for Wheeler and that an ERA in the range of 4.00 is about right.
You can look at the full article for yourself here, however I see the walks as more of a concern than his shoulder. Wheeler’s command has been an on-and-off problem since he was drafted by the Giants. Over his two-and-change seasons in the Mets organization, his walk rates had lowered substantially in comparison to those when he was with San Francisco before getting the call to the show.
That said, I thought this was a bit too critical for a pitcher who has only half of a season in the majors under his belt. Granted that Wheeler didn’t blow the doors off the competition like Matt Harvey did when he came up guns-blazing in 2012, however Wheeler did show some stretches of being an above average starter at the major league level. There were a half dozen starts where he absolutely dominated.
So long as he keeps the walks in check, there is little stopping Wheeler from taking the National League by storm and I’m expecting him to deliver a solid season in 2014, just wait and see.