Zack (Harrison) Wheeler was born on May 30th, 1990 in Smyrna, Georgia. As a high school player, he attended East Paulding where he compiled a 95-36 record as a varsity athlete over four seasons. His junior year he had eights wins against three losses and had 127 strikeouts over 64 1/3 innings and pitched to a 1.31 ERA. The following season (2009), Wheeler finished undefeated 9-0, with 151 Ks over 77 2/3 IP and a 0.54 ERA.
A scouting report done by perfectgame.org when Wheeler was a high schooler, read, “Big projection, 90-93 FB at PG National, very effortless, 3 quality pitches, good command,
94 at WWBA, 92 at ECP, up to 95 at Aflac”.
Scouting reports of Wheeler, along with his overall body of work as an amateur player were enough to convince the San Francisco Giants to draft him sixth overall in the 2009 MLB Draft.
He started his professional career in 2010 at the Single-a level as an Augusta Greenjacket. Relative to his high school numbers, he disappointed as he went 3-3 with a 3.99 ERA in 58 2.3 IP. However he did have 70 Ks, which proved that his stuff was good enough, but his command needed work.
The following season, he began at Advanced A San Jose, an affiliate of the Giants, but shifted to the St. Lucie Mets as he was traded for Carlos Beltrán. As a Met, he pitched 27 innings, with 31 Ks and a 2.00 ERA, but as a Giant he had near a 3.99 ERA in 88 IP with 98 Ks.
He began the season in AA, but eventually was promoted to the AAA level where he logged 33 innings and pitched to a respectable 3.27 ERA as a 22-year-old. He began 2013 as the number one prospect for the Mets and started in Las Vegas (the new AAA affiliate of the Mets).
This league, the PCL, is known as a tremendous hitters league and thus, his numbers should be taken with a large grain of salt.
While his walks dropped from 2012 to 2013, his ERA rose to 3.93, but his K/9 rose as well from 8.5 to 9.6. Given that the Mets have struggled and the Wheeler has finished with AAA, the Mets front office called him up and he will be making his MLB debut in the night-cap of a double-header against the Braves (the first game is started by Matt Harvey).
6’4, 185 lbs. Wheeler has a power pitcher’s body and possesses an “easy” throwing motion that allows him to maintain a high velocity throughout the game. His long arms creates deception and his quick arm action compounds this. On top of that, he comes out of his pitching motion in good fielding position.
One of his best attributes is his work ethic and demeanour on the mound. His has a competitive nature drives him to work very hard in between starts and is known to be a student of the game. He is also aggressive, as he is not afraid to pitch inside.
Fastball: High- 97 AVG: 94-95
Has life and appears to explode past hitters when he throws it up the ladder.
Curveball- 12-6 break. Does not know how to use it out of the zone yet, but that will come in time.
Change-up- Throws it in the mid-80s. As of now it is a slightly below average pitch, and often telegraphs the pitch because it “slows” his arm down.
Cutter- Relatively new pitch. Throws it in the upper 80s. It has good movement, but it is pretty raw. Again, it probably will not ever be that a better-than-average pitch.
From all indications from the material I have read, scouts seem him as a number 2 starter. The main issue is his lack of a good third pitch as well as spotty command. While both situations have improved since joining the Mets, he still has work to do. bBeing a Mets fan and my appreciation for a guy with a good work ethic, I would bet money that he gets to that ceiling. But, that remains to be seen. I am really excited to see this double-header on Tuesday as it shows what is expected to be the cornerstones of the Mets’ future.