On patience and Zack Wheeler

Mets prized right-handed pitching prospect Zack Wheeler has had some trouble early this season. Wheeler is currently pitching at Triple-A Las Vegas and it’s a bit of a concern to see the Mets prospect struggle at the level that supposed to get him ready for the Majors. However, just because he’s had a bad start to the season doesn’t mean he’s going to be a bust.

Wheeler has been doing what he’s known for doing — getting strikeouts. He has posted a 10.80 K/9 this season. However, it’s Wheeler’s control that has been a concern, as he has a 4.80 BB/9. This isn’t exactly surprising high strikeout pitchers, who tend to have higher walk rates because they’re trying to get hitters to chase outside the zone. There are a number of potential reasons why Wheeler is having trouble with walks. One reason could be his below-average LOB percentage of 66.2%, indicating that maybe he has some anxiety when guys get on base and then starts giving up walks.

Another factor could be the environment. The Triple-A team is located in Las Vegas, an area that is usually hot and humid. This can make the ball travel farther, and affect the way a pitcher pitches. Often times, when a pitcher has an away game in a high-altitude stadium like Coors Field, which is a drastically different environment from what he’s used to pitching in, he struggles. When Yu Darvish came over from Japan, he struggled in the first couple of months with his command. This was probably due to the change of pitching in a dome like he was in Japan, to pitching outside in stadiums. However, he took some time to adjust, and by the end of the year he was punishing hitters. This year he’s considered an early Cy Young front runner.

It’s going to take some patience, however it’s likely that Wheeler will adjust to the climate, and learn how to command his pitches. It’s important to remember that it’s early and we’re dealing with a very small sample size of about 30 innings, so there’s ample time for adjustment. It looks as though Wheeler may have harnessed some control, as in his start this past week he pitched 6.2 innings, and only allowed one walk. Mets fans shouldn’t worry about Wheeler, and we should keep in mind the case of fellow young pitcher Shelby Miller. Miller, who struggled at Triple-A last year with a 4.48 FIP, is now a potential Rookie of The Year contender.

9 comments for “On patience and Zack Wheeler

  1. Chris F
    May 5, 2013 at 9:53 am

    I’m pretty much in agreement here and think we need to let Zack be Zack. Aside from developing command and dealing with the climate (I think you meant arid not humid!), I think we need to let him mature mentally. He’s “this close” and he knows it. He was traded for Beltran who continues to shine. He’s now realizing Harvey is the ace he is supposed to be. All that is a lot of burden to manage that AA didn’t have. He’s got a magical arm and a very high ceiling. He set forth to limit all possible hitting damage in LV rather than just keep pitching. The environment has definitely mattered, which weighs even more. He’s gonna settle down and do exactly what we expect. Patience is exactly right.

  2. May 5, 2013 at 10:03 am

    He appears to be back on track, and pitches today.

    I cannot discount the psychological factor of being disappointed to not make the team, and the need for being challenged. Matt Harvey may have experienced this very thing, and put up good to great numbers in AAA but not what he did in the majors in 2012, nor close to his start this year.

    With the ticking clock, Wheeler needs to concentrate and bear down, and we should see him in June (or whenever that calendar allows for him to push back a year in contract negotiations.

  3. Metsense
    May 5, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Right now the Mets are going no where this year. Wheeler needs to work on his command. Wheeler’s performance isn’t forcing the issue (the NY media is). The Mets have 5 starters that deserve more time to establish themselves. They have the time because right now the Mets are going no where. The second half of the season will be plenty of time to evaluate Wheeler and acclimate him to major league life like they did with Harvey. The Mets need to be be ready opening day 2014 because at that time there would have been money spent, so called “high potential” players exposed, and the weaknesses of the team corrected. Patience.

    • za
      May 6, 2013 at 12:32 am

      It’s likely that Wheeler will be called up earlier than when Harvey was last year because he’s ahead of the curve. Harvey didn’t taste AAA until last year; Wheeler had 6 starts in AAA last year. Moreover, the MLB offensive environment is more difficult than Buffalo but arguably easier than Las Vegas. The FO wants to get Wheeler out of Vegas as soon as they think he’ll be ready. Sandy’s comments show that the team was definitely not going to lose a year of team control but is willing to pay him as a Super 2.

    • za
      May 6, 2013 at 12:37 am

      It’s likely that Wheeler will be called up earlier than when Harvey was last year because he’s ahead of the curve. Harvey didn’t taste AAA until last year; Wheeler had 6 starts in AAA last year. Moreover, the MLB offensive environment is more difficult than Buffalo but arguably easier than Las Vegas. The FO wants to get Wheeler out of Vegas as soon as they think he’ll be ready. Sandy’s comments show that the team was definitely not going to lose a year of team control but is willing to pay him as a Super 2.

      Also, the comments on Darvish’s early struggles is ridiculous. There’s absolutely no basis in saying that Darvish struggled because he moved from a dome to an open stadium. It makes more sense to talk about the difference in balls used as well as quality/habits of the competition. Japanese baseball is considered somewhere between AAA and AAAA but isn’t nearly as good as the MLB. That’s a stronger (and the accepted) argument.

  4. Name
    May 5, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    I find it ironic how NY media writers keep writing articles telling fans to be patient on Zack Wheeler, yet they themselves are the ones that keep bringing up the issue and hyping him up by writing articles on him almost daily.

    Speaking for me personally, I never think about Zack Wheeler until I read an article about him.

    Perhaps the writers themselves should exhibit patience by waiting until mid-June to really crank up the hype machine on Wheeler.

  5. Chris F
    May 5, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    I think it’s only because there’s so little else in flushing aside from Harvey’s starts to talk about.

  6. Greg Jennings
    May 8, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Spencer you can be my prized right-hander any day of the week ;)

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