Zack Wheeler, RHP
Player Data: Age: 28, B/T: L/R
Basic Stats: 29 G, 29 GS, 182 1/3 IP, 179 K, 3.31 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 7.4 H/9, 0.7 HR/9, 8.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9
Advanced Stats: 3.9 bWAR, 4.1 fWAR, 3.25 FIP, 3.81 xFIP
Free Agency: 2020
2019 Salary: $5.3 million (estimated)
Zack Wheeler came into 2018 after a season in which he threw a mere 86 1/3 innings to the tune of a 5.21 ERA before being shut down at the end of August with a stress reaction in his right arm. Expectations were so low that after posting a 8.10 ERA in spring training, Wheeler was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas to start the season.
He didn’t stay in Triple-A for long as he was recalled after only one start. That move looked brilliant after he went seven innings of one-run ball in his 2018 season debut.
What followed during the next few months was a mixed bag. In his next 18 starts before the All-Star break, he delivered quality starts in half of them (including his season debut).
He performed well in those nine starts as he went 57 1/3 innings and held opponents to 41 hits, 16 walks and 12 earned runs which was good for a 1.88 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. In the other nine games he went a combined 50 innings and gave up 63 hits, 24 walks and 41 earned runs for a 7.38 ERA and 1.74 WHIP.
What Wheeler struggled to find in the first half was true consistency. However, he started to find that consistency in June and he was able to maintain it for the entire second half of the season as a whole.
When the Mets came back from the All-Star break, it seemed like a different Wheeler showed up. From July 24 to Sept. 17, Wheeler threw 75 innings and struck out 73 batters. He gave up a mere 46 hits, 15 walks and 14 earned runs which translated to a sparkling 1.68 ERA and 0.81 WHIP.
With starters who made 10 or more starts after the All-Star break, Wheeler had the third-best ERA behind Trevor Williams (1.38 ERA) and AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell (1.17 ERA). He also had the second-best WHIP behind Snell (0.79 WHIP). For reference, his NL Cy Young Award-winning teammate Jacob deGrom posted a 1.73 ERA and 0.83 WHIP after the All-Star break.
It’s not outrageous to say that the expectations for Wheeler in 2019 are the highest of his entire career. While his call-up and rookie season were hyped in terms of what positive signs he could show, he was still expected to experience the bumps in the road that come with being a rookie.
The reason that expectations are higher now in comparison to all the other years following his rookie season is because 2014 was only his first full season, 2015-2016 he missed due to Tommy John surgery, 2017 was his first season in two years and 2018 came after an injury-plagued season in which he performed poorly overall.
This time around Wheeler approaches the season both fully healthy and coming off a terrific year in which he was on par with both Cy Young Award winners in the second half of the season.
While his 2018 season was very promising and he looks primed to be one of the best third starters in all of baseball, Wheeler’s serious injury history is still something to keep an eye out for. The Mets should be cautiously optimistic with Wheeler’s progress and be prepared to replace him if injury strikes again.
However, as of now the Mets head into 2019 with one of the best 1-2-3 punches in all of baseball.