What if you heard the New York Mets had acquired a Class A pitcher with a 2-5 record and a 5.92 ERA from the San Francisco Giants for Carlos Beltran? Would you still agree with most of the pundits out there that said the Mets made out very good in the trade? Or would you think New York was taken for a ride.
Well, when you strip away Zack Wheeler’s 5-0, 1.60 ERA in seven home starts at pitcher-friendly Municipal Stadium in San Jose – one of, if not the best, pitchers’ parks in the entire minor leagues – that’s what you have left over.
Granted, Wheeler is a superior arm, the 2009 sixth-overall pick was ranked as the No. 35 prospect in the minor leagues during Baseball America’s midseason ranking after entering the season as No. 2 on the Giants’ list. He also came in at No. 31 on the ESPN midseason list and analyst Keith Law said the Mets “made out like bandits” in the deal.
However, that doesn’t tell the whole story of the Wheeler fellow.
It’s true that the 21-year-old Wheeler has an ideal pitchers’ frame at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds and a lively arm with a fastball that can reach 95 miles per hour. However Giants general manager Brian Sabean said on Mad Dog Radio after the deal that Wheeler’s future might be as a reliever.
Wow! That’s quite a comedown. Sabean might be blowing smoke but he does know something about developing pitchers. Sabean also said that the organization views Class AA lefthander Eric Surkamp (8-3, 2.05 ERA) at Richmond more highly than Wheeler.
Wheeler yielded 26 hits and 20 walks in 39 1/3 innings while striking out 52 at home. However, he yielded 48 hits and 27 walks in 48 2/3 innings with 46 strikeouts on the road.
In addition, Wheeler has been tagged by lefthanders at a .292 clip while righthanders are batting just .189, and Wheeler is just 1-3, 5.60 ERA since the All-Star break. It will be interesting to see how the youngster does in the Florida State League without the advantage of a pitcher-friendly home park.
While it’s true that strikeouts per nine innings is one of the best indicators of future success, it should be noted that Wheeler has walked 47 batters in 88 innings to go along with his 98 strikeouts.
Wheeler was several years younger than that average player in that league, his home/road split provides a better perspective of Wheeler’s season. It may also indicate why Sabean may have made his remarks about Wheeler being better suited as a reliever and perhaps why he was willing to deal the supposed top prospect for a two-month rental.
Wheeler may indeed develop into a No. 2 starter as Law wrote last week, but everybody knows that high school pitchers are the biggest scouting risks in the game. New York did well to pry away a top minor league arm from San Francisco, but he still has a long, steep road ahead.
Class AA Binghamton RHP Matt Harvey didn’t get a win in his latest start, but the 2010 first-rounder finally had a good start Thursday. The North Carolina product struck out 10 and allowed just a run and four hits runs in seven innings against Harrisburg, an eventual 2-1 loss in 14 frames. Harvey, who is 0-3, 5.76 ERA in six starts, struck out phenom hitting prospect Bryce Harper twice in seven pitches in his first two at-bats. He got Harper on a groundout the third time around.
AROUND THE MINORS: Class AA SS Jordany Valdespin keeps on impressing. The 23-year-old Dominican had a homer and two doubles with four RBI last Monday and is batting .302/.346/.501 with 15 homers, 50 RBI and 31 stolen bases in 101 games …. Class A St. Lucie “toolsy” OF Cesar Puello just wrapped up his best month, batting .297 in July with five of his nine home runs. For the season, the 20-year-old is batting .250/ .303/.394. Teammate OF Cory Vaughn, along with Puello considered the top two young outfield prospects in the system, is in the midst of a slump. The 22-year-old is 4-for-36 with no walks and 13 strikeouts in his last nine games. He’s hitting .254/.336/.426 for St. Lucie.