10 Reasons New York Mets Should Turn to Zack Wheeler Now That Matt Harvey Is Up
The New York Mets have seen plenty of "can't miss" prospects miss pretty badly. For the sake of the organization, they are pinning a great deal of faith on the rapid ascension and hopefully success of uber-prospects Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.
Harvey flashed his brilliance in his major league debut, which featured a franchise-record 11 strikeouts.
Now that Harvey is up with the big club, the Mets' front office must now turn to Zack Wheeler sooner rather than later.
Here are ten reasons why.
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No. 10: Nothing Left to Prove in the Minor Leagues
His last two starts notwithstanding, Zack Wheeler has been everything the organization could have hoped he would become since acquiring him in exchange for All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran last season.
He has an incredible arsenal of pitches, which has allowed him to record 305 strikeouts in his 282 minor league innings dating back to 2009.
Wheeler has improved his command greatly as well, as he has compiled nearly a 3-1 K/BB ratio this season in the minors.
His jump to the major leagues would not be too drastic, considering Dwight Gooden was able to ascend from A-ball to the Opening Day rotation at 19 years old.
Wheeler's ability and statistics have exceeded the minor league levels, and it is time to reward him with a promotion to the show.
No. 9: The Front Office Can Have a Firsthand Look at Him
The Mets' affiliates in Double-A and Triple-A play their home games in Binghamton and Buffalo, respectively, which are not around the corner from Flushing, Queens.
High-ranking members of the front office, such as J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta, have been on hand to watch Wheeler pitch this season.
Not all games, however.
The top prospect should be monitored by the decision-makers in the organization during all starts to assess how far he is in terms of his development.
Some top prospects can be 19--like Dylan Bundy--and nearly ready to dominate the league, while others are 23 and are still refining command.
If he is called up to the parent club, he will be evaluated much more thoroughly and the high-ranking officials can get a firsthand look.
No. 8: Young to Arrive, Quick to Mature
As Mark Twain once said, "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." This is especially true in baseball, as we witnessed Jamie Moyer pitch to Bryce Harper earlier this season while they were a mere 30 years apart.
Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are both under the legal drinking age, yet they both appeared in the All-Star game this season.
Some players have been in the big leagues for years and have yet to achieve their full potential.
Point being, whether Zack Wheeler is 22 or 26, he possesses the ability to get swings and misses, and has displayed the mental fortitude to this point that will enable him to achieve a comfort zone amidst the spotlight in New York.
While some can make the case that Mike Pelfrey entered the majors with similar anticipation, his lack of a secondary pitch and mental toughness made it extremely difficult for him to sustain success.
Wheeler has allowed only one home run all season, which shows how difficult he has been to square up, and that will translate into the major leagues immediately.
No. 7: Time to Show off the Crown Jewel of the System
Is it better to have a loaded minor league system or a young and mistake-prone big league club?
The Mets appear to be in the enviable position of having prospects that are capable of succeeding immediately.
Peter Gammons is apparently a huge fan of Wheeler, as he tweeted that he may turn out to be the best long-term acquisition of the past two deadlines.
It has been a long time since the Mets have had a prospect that has been widely recognized as one of the best in the game.
The case could be made for players like Lastings Milledge and Fernando Martinez, but there were conflicting opinions on the players since their signing day.
Milledge had the behavior issues and expulsion in high school, which should have been a huge red flag for the organization to begin with. They chose to draft him out of high school anyway.
Fernando Martinez was hyped primarily because of his .793 OPS as a 17-year-old playing in the Florida State League.
After that, his constant injuries and relatively small stature kept him from experiencing any sort of sustained success.
Wheeler appears to be the type of legitimate pitching prospect that the Mets have not produced since they drafted a certain high-school pitcher in the first round of the 1982 draft.
Sandy Alderson is definitely proud he was able to pull off a trade that basically sent a two-month rental player for an elite prospect.
Once Wheeler arrives, the attention will approach Stephen Strasburg level.
No. 6: Attendance in August and September Would Receive a Boost
During the inaugural season at Citi Field, the Mets drew approximately 3.1 million fans to the ballpark. That was 600,000 more than the NL average that season.
Clearly, the main reason for the team drawing as well as they did was the excitement over the new stadium.
The team limped to the finish line in 2009, as well as 2010 and 2011, which did not bode well for their attendance. It decreased significantly each season.
After the fast start to this season—in which fans actually began to come out to the stadium more—the team has hit a tailspin.
The Mets are currently No. 16 in attendance this season, averaging 29,971 per game. That is not a terrible number, but it figures to drop substantially if the Mets fall well out of contention for the NL Wild Card.
The antidote to that would be to create a buzz in the stadium without necessarily improving in the wins column.
With the promotion of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, there will be many "walk-up" ticket sales, much like 2005 when Pedro Martinez was dominating the National League.
Fans would buy into the hype, and it would ultimately benefit the ownership due to the attendance spike and revenue created with jersey sales.
No. 5: The Looming 2013 Rotation Conundrum
Unless a season ends with a World Series title, the front office should always be looking to upgrade at positions.
This does not look like the year the Mets' drought will end in terms of bringing home the Commissioner's Trophy.
The Mets' obvious weakness is the lack of depth in the rotation and bullpen. As far as the rotation is concerned, it would seem the Mets will be obliged to keep Johan Santana for the 2013 season, considering his contract value and injuries.
R.A. Dickey is in the midst of a stellar season, and the only question is when his contract will be extended, which means he is locked into the rotation for at least next season.
The front office rewarded Jon Niese with a five-year contract worth $25 million prior to the season, which means he will be locked into the rotation next season.
If Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey are going to be part of the Mets long-term solution—and all indications are that the Mets plan for them to be—then the future of Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee are very much up in the air.
My prediction is that the Mets will allow Pelfrey to test free agency, considering he is coming off Tommy John surgery and not many teams may be willing to commit a spot on the big league roster to him.
Despite the potential season-ending injury to Dillon Gee, I believe the Mets love his makeup as a pitcher, and he is the type of pitcher that could be effective as a middle reliever or a spot starter.
Regardless, the top prospects are going to be given every chance to win a spot in the rotation, which will make their late-season performances even more intriguing.
No. 4: His Presence Will Aid Harvey, and Vice Versa
Matt Harvey does not appear to be overwhelmed so far in his major league career, but it definitely would help him if he could have Zack Wheeler to relieve some of the focus from him.
Both are have a relatively low-key demeanor, which could be difficult for a star to maintain in New York.
If they are able to develop at roughly the same rate, it could make their transition to a new lifestyle go much more smoothly.
The Mets were able to do this in the early part of the 1980s when Dwight Gooden had Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez with whom to experience growing pains.
In my opinion, this will make it much easier for both of them.
Their competitive natures will drive each other to succeed. If one has a solid start, the other will attempt to match or surpass it.
On the other end of the spectrum, if they both struggle, the focus will not be on just one of them. I think that will be a good thing so that they can experience adversity at a young age and develop tough skin.
No. 3: The Mets' Fans Want Excitement
It is clear that the Mets are not the team that got off to a 46-40 start. Since then, they immediately fell back to Earth and are facing a rather uphill climb to jump over multiple teams in the NL Wild Card race.
None of that is good news for Mets fans, who have dealt with so much disappointment over the past few years.
The beginning of this season was much like the early stages of Facebook. There was just something about it that was appealing and made you want more.
The best games of the season were filled with so much jubilance. The Johan Santana no-hitter appeared to be a transcending moment in franchise history.
David Wright and Kirk Niuewenhuis both came through with huge walk-off singles to cap remarkable comebacks against intra-division rivals.
Jordany Valdespin igniting the team with his clutch home runs was another example of the team consistently playing above their talent level, which was remarkable to witness.
Even after the 1-11 beginning to their second half, the Mets can recapture some of this buzz with the promotion of Zack Wheeler.
The fan base wants something to talk about, anything to be excited about.
Having two of the most promising young arms in the game would not hurt.
No. 2: He's Better Than the Other Options
Entering the season, it was no secret that the Mets were dangerously thin at key positions. Had there been no injuries, the Mets could have potentially stuck in the NL East race for the duration of the season.
Left without three-fifths of the Opening Day rotation for a significant portion of time could cripple any team, especially one without the star power of the 2007 squad.
The rotation has been dismal lately, largely due to the performances of Quadruple-A starters like Jeremy Hefner.
Even if Zack Wheeler does not treat the NL lineups like he did in Binghamton, he could still fare better than Chris Schwinden, Miguel Batista and Hefner did.
Would a mediocre performance elicit excitement from the fanbase? No, but Wheeler could at least keep the team in the game more often than the band of misfits that have recorded some outs for them.
No. 1: He Is Ready to Dominate
Every once in a while a pitcher comes along that has been expected to dominate at every level since the time he first stepped on a baseball field.
Zack Wheeler appears to fit into that category, considering he has been an elite pitcher no matter what level he was on.
In his senior year of high school, Wheeler was named Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Georgia for his tremendous achievements.
He compiled a 9-0 record with a 0.54 ERA while recording 151 strikeouts in 77.2 innings. That followed his junior season in which he went 8-3 with a 1.31 ERA.
Wheeler was clearly not intimidated by the professional level of competition, considering he amassed 70 strikeouts in only 58 innings in his first full season.
The lanky righty possesses the overpowering fastball and devastating curveball that has been ranked as the best curve in the organization.
I view Wheeler as a pitcher with higher upside than Harvey, but they will have terrific major league careers.
There is no reason to have Wheeler continue to compile strong statistics in the minor leagues. He should be developing in the big leagues along with his fellow top prospect while operating under the tutelage of major league coaches.
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