MMO Top 20 Prospects – #1 Zack Wheeler

Mets RHP Zack Wheeler is more than just the Mets #1 prospect. He is more than the player acquired in the one undeniably fantastic move that Sandy Alderson has pulled off as GM so far. He is more than a very talented, 21-year-old righty with an explosive fastball and a ton of upside. He is the hope for Mets fans, that the future will be here sooner rather than later. If the cash-strapped team known as the NY Mets is ever going to play respectably good, contending baseball again, they sorely need players like Wheeler, and Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia to develop so that they can come up to the majors and contribute. Rather than come up to the majors too early so that they stagnate in their development, or worse even, never make it at all.

They could use a return to health by Johan Santana of course, but the way things are going that probably is not going to happen. But what about Jenrry Mejia? He should be back from TJS by the second half of 2012, which could mean a 2013 arrival into the rotation. Then there are pitchers right behind those guys that should someday contribute at the big league level. Players like Darin Gorski, Jack Leathersich, Domingo Tapia, and Akeel Morris, should all arrive in the next three years. But Wheeler is the lynchpin on which all else turns. Without his contribution, there is no other clear-cut choice for a future top-of-the-rotation guy.

No one in the Mets system at this time, profiles as a SP1/SP2 type of pitcher except for Wheeler. Harvey and Familia, despite being fairly advanced pitchers and throwing mid-90’s, profile as SP2 or SP3 guys at best, providing they develop better change-ups. But Wheeler is just a tic better, and here’s why.

Although fastball command is constantly worked on with every pitcher in the Mets system, and Wheeler certainly needs to continue to work on his to be successful, he has the ability to change speeds off his fastball which can be very effective against good hitters. Wheeler’s fastball is normally between 93-95, sometimes hitting 96 or 97, with arm-side run. He pitches aggressively and is not afraid to pitch inside, but when he is having trouble hitting his spots, he sometimes takes something off his fastball with the speed as low as the high 80’s.

He throws from a three-quarter arm-slot, which is very conducive to the curveball, and Wheeler throws a good one that may even be his best pitch. Like with his fastball, he needs to work on his command as he tends to throw too many curves in the dirt, but he changes speeds well, throwing it 72-78 mph, and keeps hitters off-balance. His curve has two-plain break and when it’s on, it’s very tough to hit.

His change-up is his weakest pitch by far, since he seldom throws it. It comes in at 82-84 with a little sink and late tailing action. If he threw it with more frequency he could easily make it an average pitch and it has the upside, if he can speed up his arm delivery and maintain the velocity and fade, to be an above average one.

At 6’4″ and 185 lbs., Wheeler is not a max effort pitcher but is very aggressive on the mound. He shows good balance with his delivery and repeats it well. He has broad shoulders and should add on some muscle as he fills out. There is no reason why the added strength won’t help his command, and could add some more velocity to his fastball. He clearly overwhelms hitters at high A and should definitely find himself in the Binghamton rotation to start next season. If he shows good progress, a mid-season call-up to AAA would not be out of the question.

Zack Wheeler video

This concludes our MMO 2012 Mets Top 20 Prospect list. I hope you enjoyed following along. Over the coming days I will be releasing my 2012 Mets Top 21-30, 31-40, and 41-50 Prospects lists, for those of you that can’t get enough lists and player rankings.

2012 MMO Top 20 Prospects

1.   Zack Wheeler              RHP

2.   Jeurys Familia            RHP

3.   Matt Harvey                 RHP

4.   Jenrry Mejia                RHP

5.   Brandon Nimmo          OF

6.   Kirk Nieuwenhuis        OF

7.   Juan Lagares              OF

8.   Wilmer Flores             INF

9.   Cesar Puello               RF

10.  Reese Havens             2B

11.  Cory Mazzoni             RHP

12.  Jordany Valdespin      INF

13.  Darin Gorski               LHP

14.  Phillip Evans              SS

15.  Jefry Marte                  3B

16.  Collin McHugh           RHP

17.  Juan Urbina               LHP

18.  Akeel Morris              RHP

19.  Michael Fulmer          RHP

20.  Danny Muno               INF