by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Things appear to be changing for the New York Mets, with the emergence of Jacob deGrom and the return of Matt Harvey on the horizon. It’s easy to lose Zack Wheeler in the shuffle, though he has the upside to augment those two and really help the team develop into a top flight contender. Did he make any progress in reaching that type of level in 2014? What is his outlook for 2015? Let’s take a look, beginning with his numbers:
187 Strikeouts (9.08 K/9)
79 Walks (3.84 BB/9)
The biggest concern with Wheeler has always been his control, and he did improve in that regard. That’s not to say that a 3.84 BB/9 is impressive, but it was consistent as he posted a 3.82 in the first half and 3.86 in the second. Of course he also had three months north of 4.00, so we can’t call it all rosy.
With a 4.0 mark in the minor leagues and 4.14 in the Majors in 2013, it’s one of the few things holding him back.
The other is his ability to get out left-handed hitters. Last season they hit .256 against him overall, but there is a decided split in the numbers by pitch:
- Fourseam – .296
- Sinker – .321
- Change – .302
- Slider – .208
- Curve – .098
When he was in position to utilize his slider and curve (which generated 35 of his 81 strikeouts against lefties) he was devastating. The problem is getting to that point, as they teed off on him otherwise.
If he can solve those two issues the sky truly is the limit. His 9.8% SwStr% indicates that the potential is there to maintain about a strikeout per inning. He also became an above average groundball pitcher, with a 54.0% groundball rate (halves of 54.1% and 53.8%). Those two skills appear to be here and they aren’t going to be going anywhere.
Unfortunately, given his long history of control issues it’s hard to say without a shadow of a doubt that he’s suddenly going to make a dramatic improvement. It’s not impossible, but the signs of consistency just aren’t there right now.
He is worth targeting, but he’s just more of a high-upside back end option who we would recommend sitting against left-handed heavy lineups early on. There’s a good chance he takes another step forward, turning him into a draft day bargain. Unfortunately, the two issues he faces could just as likely plague him once again.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Reference