Mets: What to expect from Zack Wheeler in 2018

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 19: Zack Wheeler
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 19: Zack Wheeler /

Zack Wheeler will make his 2018 debut for the New York Mets on Wednesday. What should we expect from him this season?

When the New York Mets demoted Zack Wheeler prior to Opening Day, they took away a chance at seeing him pitch alongside the rest of their starting pitching superheroes. It didn’t take long before they gave us that chance again.

Wheeler is scheduled to make his 2018 debut on Wednesday when he pitches against the Miami Marlins.

Giving Wheeler a chance to pitch against the Marlins to begin his season is a great way to let him get his feet wet. They don’t have the mashers and bashers they did in previous years. It’s a perfect way to prepare him for the make or break season.

Expectations for Wheeler in 2018

Expectations are no longer what they once were for Wheeler. After not pitching in the big leagues in 2015 or 2016, he returned in 2017 with less than promising results.

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Through 17 starts for the Mets, Wheeler went 3-7 with a 5.21 ERA. He did strikeout 8.4 batters per nine, but lost some of the magic with the high walk rate of 4.2 per nine. Control has always been an issue for Wheeler. Last year, mixed with career-high in home runs allowed, it cost him dearly.

It’s hard to believe the once-promising righty fell so hard from what should have been a productive MLB career. At nearly 28-years-old, fully turning things around is a challenge.

We should expect Wheeler to fight for his starting rotation spot in each start he makes for the Mets. He’s on the bubble right now. Once Jason Vargas is off the disabled list and ready to return, he’ll be the first one they look at to return to Las Vegas.

What Wheeler needs to do is get outs and show the Mets he can strike batters out. In doing so, he can at least keep a spot in the team’s bullpen.

However, Wheeler’s outspoken lack of interest in becoming a relief pitcher may hold him back. If it’s starter or bust for him, he has to outpitch Steven Matz until Vargas returns.

Wheeler’s time is running thin

Aside from his unwillingness to shift to the bullpen, also working against Wheeler is his expiring contract. He’s a free agent after the 2019 season and not someone who has earned his stay. Letting someone like Matz work through some growing pains makes more sense than giving Wheeler the ball during a slump.

Wheeler’s stay in the Mets’ rotation looks like a temporary stay. Lowered expectations steal away from some of the excitement of his return.

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The key for Wheeler to succeed is to make the most of his pitches. Mickey Callaway shouldn’t let him stay out there for too long. Ultimately, the Mets need to start preparing him for a relief role whether he likes it or not.