New York Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler is the rotation’s X-Factor in 2018

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 22: Zack Wheeler
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 22: Zack Wheeler /

Zack Wheeler hasn’t been around long, but the New York Mets need to count on him

Zack Wheeler has not been the ace that the New York Mets thought they were getting in the Carlos Beltran trade.  He has battled injuries his entire career.  When he has been here, he has not been great either.

Last season, in 17 starts, he posted a 3-7 record with a 5.21 ERA.  That line, plus a less than stellar spring training earned him a spot in AAA.

Now if I told you that Wheeler would play a pivotal role in the Mets 2018 season, most would not feel confident in the Mets chances.  But with Matt Harvey struggling and being put in the bullpen,  Wheeler needs to be reliable, and so far he has been.

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He has only had two starts, but a 2.77 era and 13 innings pitched over those starts is something to give hope.  Wheeler’s strikeout/walk rate is 2.14.  Certainly not pretty or exciting, but will allow him to go deeper into games, which is something Mets starters have struggled with.

However, the Mets don’t need him to be an ace.  What they need from Wheeler is someone who can log innings and give them a chance to win.

What gives me the most hope was his last start.  Wheeler did not have his best stuff against a tough Washington lineup.  He was able to battle, get outs, and turn what looked real bad into a decent start.  He gave them seven innings and allowed only three runs.

The bullpen is not in good shape.  Harvey is out of the rotation. Jason Vargas is still rehabbing.  Steven Matz has not pitched to his potential yet.  Wheeler has shown promise in his short time, and the Mets need him more than ever before.

With Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom expected to perform like aces, they do not need ace-type production from Wheeler.  As long as Mickey Callaway can look up at the scoreboard after seven innings and a score within reach, Wheeler has done his job.

Next: Astros catcher Max Stassi on the Mets' radar

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Wheeler’s next chance to show the Mets he belongs in the rotation comes on Tuesday against the St. Louis Cardinals. Originally slated to pitch in Sunday’s finale against the Atlanta Braves, Wheeler has a new test in front of him. He gets to face a Cardinals squad with talent up and down the lineup. Unlike his first start in 2018 versus the Miami Marlins, Wheeler is challenged with a true MLB starting nine.