MMO Minors Mailbag: Will Vegas Affect Pitchers?

Rich asks…

What do you think the effect will be on our prospects moving from Buffalo to Las Vegas? I read that the climate could be bad for our pitchers and I’m concerned about Zack Wheeler. I know that you talk to these players a lot and was wondering what you felt about this move? Was this a bad thing for us or nothing to worry about?

Sean replies…

To first address was the move a bad thing for the Mets organization – yes, it was, but the relationship in Buffalo had soured and the Toronto Blue Jays organization made more sense to come in and swoop up a Triple-A team so close to its location.

The Mets were stuck between a rock and a hard place, and since MLB teams cannot negotiate with affiliates until the conclusion of their season, the window for finding a new home was difficult. However, the Mets only signed a two-year PDC with Las Vegas so after the 2014 season, it seems a more permanent move will be arranged.

In terms of what it means for players – Vegas is like a funhouse mirror. Nothing is as it appears, and once you leave you look exactly like you did before.

Hitters get to enjoy increased batting averages, power numbers and seem to always encounter pitchers who don’t have good breaking stuff. The thin Vegas air due to its high elevation makes for many high scoring games, so the offense always looks great. However, the reason why the offense looks so great is that due to the elevation, hanging pitches get crushed and breaking balls don’t break.

In fact, Toronto had made skipping some of their top prospects from AA to the MLB a common occurrence just to avoid Vegas because of what it can do for a pitcher’s confidence. For a guy like Zach Wheeler who needs to refine his control and consistency of his secondary pitches, Vegas sounds like an unlikely place to see Wheeler pitch – especially with some predictions having Wheeler in the MLB rotation by June or July of 2013. The front office may just have him focus on command and secondary pitches in a return to Bingo.