Updated by Joe D. on 4/17
Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, spoke to Mets GM Sandy Alderson who essentially said that Zack Wheeler’s performance at Triple-A Las Vegas is the primary consideration for him to be promoted to the big leagues. Or in other words, what I’ve been saying all along and you can read below this update.
“Super Two status is a consideration”, Alderson told Rubin.
“But his level of performance is probably the major consideration. He pitched at Triple-A last year. He’s pitching at Triple-A this year. His last outing was excellent. Let’s see how it goes.”
Wheeler allowed three runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings against Colorado Springs in his last start, walking none and racking up eight strikeouts.
“If he pitches extremely well over the next several starts, that will indicate one thing. If he doesn’t, that might indicate something else,” Alderson explained.
“And, of course, we’d have to have input from our player-development people as well as Las Vegas manager Wally Backman and pitching coach Randy St. Claire and so forth.”
Makes sense to me and my thoughts are right below…
Original Post 4/15
Zack Wheeler bounced back from a couple of less than optimal starts and delivered a solid performance Sunday at Cashman Field in Las Vegas.
The Mets’ top pitching prospect allowed three runs on six hits including one home run, in 5.1 innings while walking none and striking out eight. All told, Wheeler threw 97 pitches, 61 of them for strikes.
Wheeler struggled in his first two starts this month, lasting just 3.1 innings in his season debut and letting up two runs on three hits, three walks and striking out three. His second start was hardly better, allowing four runs, one earned, in 5.1 innings, but still struggled with his command.
The Mets later announced that Wheeler was dealing with a blister/avulsion on the middle finger of his pitching hand, something that he’s dealt with in the past. A precautionary MRI revealed nothing serious.
Sunday’s performance alleviated any fears as Wheeler looked dominating and even had his curve working unlike his first two starts. His fastball had great late movement today and was ranging from 95-97 mph and even touched 98 mph twice. Of course it was his control that stood out the most – allowing no batters to reach on a walk. One thing to note was that veteran catcher Landon Powell caught this game and not Travis d’Arnaud.
Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson both have said that promoting Wheeler wouldn’t be a consideration until he showed that he could dominate in the PCL. That of course is the logical way to proceed as they look to safeguard the young right-hander’s future and avoid setting him up for failure. I was chatting with Mike Newman of FanGraphs on Friday and he believed that Wheeler should follow the same course of action they took with Matt Harvey last season.
Fans however, will continue to rant and call for his immediate promotion at the hint of any positive sign as they focus solely on the strikeouts and not much of anything else. Let me remind them that this afternoon’s performance by Wheeler, though a big improvement, wouldn’t have been considered a quality start by the major league definition.
Hopefully, Wheeler can build on his latest effort and continue to improve in future starts. I want to see him take control of a game when runners are on base. I want to see fewer hitters dig in on him and would love to see Wheeler take over the inside part of the plate and own it.
You could tell that he was very focused and determined on throwing strikes, which was good to see. But I want to see Wheeler use his command to paint the corners with his fastball and keep hitters off balance. Then he can drop that hammer curve on them to seal the deal.
Until Alderson and his team see Wheeler use all four of his plus pitches with greater efficiency and more deliver consistent and impressive results, they will keep him in Vegas until he starts rising up the ranks of the WHIP and ERA leaders in the Pacific Coast League. That has been their barometer and mandate since the beginning of spring training.
The last thing on the minds of the Mets front office right now is Super Two or not losing a year of his service time. Wheeler is simply not at the place he needs to be for them to even consider a promotion. Sandy flat out said in our conference call that his destiny is not tied to injuries or poor performance by the team’s major league rotation. And that’s exactly the way it should be.