Last July, the Mets made a critical trade by sending All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran to the Giants for one of the Giants' top pitching prospects, Zack Wheeler. Being that Beltran ended up signing with the Cardinals recently during the offseason, it's clear that the Mets ultimately became the winners of this trade.
However, being that Wheeler is only a prospect, many fans may wonder why Wheeler is considered the Mets' best prospect.
Wheeler, a Dallas, Ga. native was selected with the sixth overall pick by the Giants in the 2009 MLB Draft. He spent the 2010 season in Single-A Augusta in the South Atlantic League. In 13 starts and 21 overall appearances that year, he went 3-3 with a 3.99 ERA. He also struck out 70 batters in just 58.2 innings pitched.
In 2011, he started the season with the high-Single-A San Jose Giants of the California League. He had a 7-5 record with a 3.99 ERA in 16 starts before his trade to the Mets organization. After the trade, he spent the rest of the season with the high Single A St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League. He went 2-2 with a 2.00 ERA in six starts.
Wheeler is most likely going to be pitching in Double-A Binghamton during the 2012 season. A major league call-up is unlikely for this year, but it's not out of the question completely.
Even before he got drafted, Wheeler's fastball has been able to consistently hit over 95 miles per hour. As a result, that is his out pitch and one that he relies upon on a regular basis. Wheeler also has an above-average curveball with a very good break to it.
However, despite the speed and talent he has, he could use some improvement with his command and mechanics.
According to Adam Foster of Project Prospect, "Similar to his fastball, Wheeler has room to improve his curveball command. He's presently getting some swing-throughs on curveballs out of the zone that many big leaguer hitters won't offer at." Wheeler throws a change-up as well, but he does not use that pitch as often as the fastball and curveball.
Wheeler throws from a 3/4 arm slot and has a long stride to the plate. However, his one glaring weakness is his mechanics. According to Foster, Wheeler does not really begin his delivery of the pitch until he plants his front foot, which is why he could be considered a risk in regards to arm injuries, due to all the work he has to do with his arm while pitching.
Only time can tell whether Wheeler's current mechanics could potentially lead to arm troubles, but hopefully, the Mets' coaching staff can help him improve on this.
If one were to compare Wheeler to a current MLB pitcher, Wade Davis of the Rays is one person that could draw similarities. Both pitchers are young, and while Davis has already been in the major leagues for a few years, they both throw a lot of fastballs and curveballs, even though Wheeler already has more velocity on his fastball.
Nonetheless, both Wheeler and Davis are projected to be above-average starting pitchers in the major leagues and they both also have a lot of upside to their careers.
It has become very clear now that the Mets' pitching future has already been built around Wheeler and fellow pitching prospects Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia. The plan is to have them become the Mets' second version of "Generation K." However, in order for the trio to get the Mets back in the postseason, they will have to do one thing that the original "Generation K" failed at miserably, and that was staying healthy.
All three have the potential to become future All-Star pitchers, but nothing will be possible if they start getting injured more than usual.
Like Harvey and Familia, Wheeler most likely will not play for the Mets in 2012. He will probably start the year in Double-A Binghamton and sometime during the season, he will likely get promoted to Triple-A Buffalo. A major league call-up in September could happen, but the Mets would probably want to be as safe as possible with pitchers like Wheeler, Harvey and Familia.
A more accurate major-league debut projection for Wheeler would be 2013, and probably at the start, but it may not even happen until midway through 2013.
Again, time will tell as to what the Mets end up doing, so it will be interesting to see how all this unfolds.