On May 30th, Zack Wheeler turned twenty-three years old, although his biggest birthday gift is yet to arrive – a plane ticket in the mail for a flight to Flushing. In the meantime, the Fresno Grizzlies probably wished his scheduled departure came just a tad bit sooner than last night’s game.
Two days prior to Saturday’s start, Newsday’s Adam Candee quoted the Las Vegas manager:
"This kid’s ready, (Wally) Backman said. He’s ready to pitch in the big leagues. I personally believe that. His stuff definitely plays. It’s a matter of when the organization feels he’s ready to go there."
Feb 23, 2013; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (65) throws in the third inning during a spring training game against the Washington Nationals at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
After hurling another gem yesterday against their division foe, Zack Wheeler’s work for the Las Vegas 51’s is clearly coming to an end. He has little else to prove pitching in the Pacific Coast League. As I similarly wrote previously regarding Rafael Montero, it is probably time to furnish Zack Wheeler with an upgrade in competition. We still have his Super Two minutia to contend with, but as the long awaited month of June is finally upon us, Wheeler’s anticipated approach over Queens is due within two more week’s time. So go ahead Mets fans, let the countdown begin. But until he ultimately touches down at LaGuardia Airport, a little more seasoning can’t hurt. He stands to make two more starts which extends his stay in Vegas to at least June 12th.
Last night’s game in Fresno was Wheeler’s third start since returning from shoulder soreness. After two very conservative outings, Zack worked back up to tossing ninety-five pitches last night, sixty-two for strikes, for a 65% rate of effectiveness. After retiring the side in order in the first, he allowed two hits in the second inning before retiring the next ten consecutive batters he faced. He only allowed three hits overall, while surrendering one earned run. Zack walked one batter and struck out six for the victory, improving his record to 4-1, with all four wins coming since April 30th.
Zack continues to lower his ERA from 5.85 after his first four starts of the season, to a considerably lowered 3.86 mark at present. His 1.303 WHIP additionally still requires a certain pre-May perspective. For the season, Zack Wheeler has pitched 58.1 innings, allowed fifty-two hits, walked twenty-four, and struck out fifty-nine batters. Since April 30th, his hits per nine, and walks allowed have plummeted, evidenced by his 0.874 WHiP covering his last six starts. Zack’s rate of strikeouts has been the most consistent part of his game. In fact, his K/9 average is 9.1 percent, tying his best mark set last season in Binghamton, since achieving a 10.1 K/9 rate in 2011 pitching for (A)-San Jose.
The Mets effectively have a two week long competition for two remaining spots in the starting rotation, and/or a roster spot. Dillon Gee, Shaun Marcum, Jeremy Hefner and Collin McHugh all stand to be affected by Zack Wheeler’s eventual arrival. After Matt Harvey, Jonathon Niese, and Wheeler, the four and five jobs are up for grabs. Dillon Gee ideally will prevail to keep his place in the rotation, while Collin McHugh will most likely return to Las Vegas. That leaves Hefner and Marcum to battle for slot number five. I personally do not think much of Shaun Marcum, so that leaves (me) Jeremy Hefner.
Sandy Alderson seems intent on capping Zack Wheeler at 180 innings this season. After another start or two in Vegas, Wheeler might have slightly over one hundred innings left for the balance of the 2013 regular season. Depending how well or poorly he performs, the Mets might be able to squeeze twelve to fourteen starts out of him, before needing one of their surplus pitchers to rejoin the rotation. Just remember, the more quality starts he throws means the sooner he gets shut down. So, don’t be disappointed when the Mets follow through.
Once the dust of the trade deadline settles, that’s assuming the Mets enter trade discussions with real intent, August might provide a condition conducive enough for a second call-up, perhaps Rafael Montero from Binghamton. I’m actually opposed to promoting Montero to Flushing at any point this season, but that prospect is entertaining to say the least.