Time For Wheeler To Take The Next Step

Is there a point where a player becomes too good for the level they are at, and at the same time it becomes counterproductive to stay at that level?  Seems like a rhetorical question, and if so, has Zack Wheeler reached that point pitching for the Binghamton Mets?  In his last three starts he has been lights out, dominant over a majority of the Double A batters he has faced.  Has he reached a point in his development where to further that development, not stagnate it, he needs to move up a level?  Rightfully so, the New York Mets are going to take their time with the organizations top prospect, but for Wheeler to develop further shouldn’t his move to the Buffalo Bisons be sooner rather than later?

Wheeler’s numbers have been more than impressive this season, especially since his return from a short stint on the DL at the beginning of May.  In the nine games he has started this season, he lost two of his first four, and had a no decision in the other two of those four.  In the next five games he started, Wheeler has won each and every one.

His current ERA of 1.88 is the lowest of his professional career, and overall has been on a steady decline since he first broke into the pro ranks in 2010.  He had an ERA of 3.99 for Augusta in the Sally League in 2010, 3.99 for San Jose in the California League in 2011, and 2.00 for St. Lucie in the Florida State League in the same season.

Photo Credit: Petey Pete, Mets Merized Online

His last three starts – which were against the first, second, and third place teams in the B-Mets division – he pitched seven, eight, and then seven innings respectively, striking out eight, seven, and eight opposing batters.  He allowed only six walks over his last three starts, including a zero in that column after last night’s win against the Reading Phillies.  For the season, he has 60 strikeouts in the nine games he has appeared in.

Again looking at his last three outings, opponents’ batting average against the 22 year old righty is 0.097.  Over the same number of games, Wheeler has thrown a combined 280 pitches (90, 97, 93), 193 of them for strikes (68, 63, 62), which equates to 69% of his pitches being a strike.  In comparison, Johan Santana – the ace of the New York Mets staff – has thrown 67% of his pitches for strikes over his last three starts.

One rival scout who saw Wheeler manhandle the Reading Phillies on Thursday, couldn’t stop raving:

“I haven’t seen Orioles super-prospect Dylan Bundy yet, but this guy is the best minor-league pitcher I’ve seen this year. He just blew me away. One of the best I’ve ever seen.”

“Wheeler touched 100 mph on the radar gun, and pitched at 96-97 mph. And with no effort,” he said. “And late life on the fastball. And with a knee-buckling curve, and a good changeup. He was overpowering. Reading is a pretty good team, but it was like a man vs. boys.”

Any way you shake the numbers out, one thing is clear – the ‘organizations top prospect’ moniker that has been hung on Wheeler is well deserved, and his time in Double A is short.  He’s dominated the R-Phils, Rock Cats, and Thunder, time for him to put on the Bisons jersey and do the same against the Iron Pigs, Red Wings, and Yankees before taking the ultimate step to the big leagues.