Mets Minors: The return of Zack Wheeler

Thanks to a marked bounce back in his Spring Training performance, Steven Matz deservedly saved himself from a demotion to AAA. It did not hurt that Jason Vargas was hurt but it is hard to argue against his stats in his final Spring outings.

Zack Wheeler was not so lucky. Wheeler pitched 10.0 innings for the Mets this Spring and wound up with an ERA of 8.10 and an unsightly WHIP of 2.40 over 5 outings. So, what went wrong for him and how do the Mets fix it?

On the positive side, his power appeared to be intact. Wheeler fanned 14 batters in those 10.0 innings which equates to a robust 12.6 K/9. Likewise, it is hard to fault his control. Wheeler only walked 2 batters and boasted a 1.8 BB/9 this Spring. The problem came from his living so squarely in the strikezone, perhaps. Wheeler gave up a .431 batting line to opposing hitters.

Obviously, you cannot be a successful pitcher if you are making the opposing batters all look like Ted Williams and the Mets were right to send him to AAA but let us look deeper at the difficulties he faced. For instance, Wheeler struggled mightily against lefties, with an ERA and a Opp Avg far higher (13.50 and .530) than against righties (4.50 and .346). Yet those aren’t the most intriguing stats.

Take a look at the his numbers when pitching ahead in the count:

● IP: 5.0
● ERA: 1.80
● WHIP: 0.00
● Ks: 14
● BBs: 0

It should be pretty clear that Wheeler needs, desperately to throw strikes right away and that he needs the count in his favor to be effective.

In his Met career, Zack Wheeler has only pitched a total of 19 games in AAA. 6 of those games were back in 2012 before the Mets were run out of Buffalo. That being said, his 13 games in 2013’s Las Vegas rotation were quite good. He pitched 68.2 IP with an ERA under 4.00 in the PCL. He also struck out 73 and kept opposing hitters to a .236 Avg.

Frankly, these are the numbers that the Mets want to see from Zack before he comes back to Queens. Surprisingly, they even have the luxury of waiting for him to achieve that with so many of their arms healthy.

I, like others, have faith that Wheeler will find his groove and bounce back to being an effective major leaguer. It will be intriguing to watch his progress as minor league games begin.

2 comments for “Mets Minors: The return of Zack Wheeler

  1. MattyMets
    April 2, 2018 at 1:37 pm

    As with Dom Smith, Gavin Cecchini, Jamie Callahan, Hansel Robles and anyone else among the last cuts, the real hope is that their performance will be what forces them onto the MLB roster, rather than a desperate phone call after an injury.

  2. TexasGusCC
    April 3, 2018 at 9:48 am

    While the pitcher who personifies the term “10 cents brain” comes up to replace Swarzak, it would have been nice to see Callahan come up and Robles stay there and work on his craft. But, without even playing a single game, Robles is up due to injury.

    Last spring, John Smoltz recommended that Wheeler be put into the bullpen to allow him to work back slowly and get his feel for throwing by throwing shorter sessions. He said going into the bullpen for a few years was a blessing for him after T.J. surgery and allowed him to work his way back in small steps. Maybe it would have helped Zack after missing two complete years? Nonetheless, in today’s reality, he isn’t ready for The Show and probably needs at least two months to get into a good groove. I would still put him in the pen for a year.

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