3 Reasons the Mets Have to Call Up Zack Wheeler on September 1
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The New York Mets have collapsed during the second half of the 2012 season. As of Aug. 24, the team has compiled an 11-27 record since the All-Star break.
What was once a promising, surprising season has become a disappointing one. After looking as if they would exceed preseason expectations, the Mets could very well fulfill the predictions that targeted them for last place in the NL East.
Mets fans need some hope during the final month of the season. For teams with losing records, that means it's time to bring up promising minor leaguers and provide a glimpse of the best to come.
There has been excitement in Queens over pitching prospect Zack Wheeler ever since the Mets acquired him last season from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Carlos Beltran. He was the Giants' top prospect and now he's the Mets' No. 1 hope for the future.
With little else to be excited about for the final month of the season, the Mets should call Wheeler up to the majors in September. He's had a fine year in the minors, compiling a 10-8 record and 3.48 ERA between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Buffalo.
This wouldn't be an impulsive decision meant solely to give Mets fans solace, either. There are also solid baseball reasons to make such a move.
Some September Excitement
What do Mets fans have to look forward to through the month of September? What can stoke some feelings of excitement and anticipation?
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Perhaps David Wright can still make a run at the National League Most Valuable Player Award with numbers that put him near the top of every offensive category. However, the Mets' record will effectively kill any chance he has at winning individual honors.
Besides, Wright creates some anxiety for Mets fans now.
Will the team sign him to a contract extension during the offseason or pick up his $16 million option for 2013 and let him play out his contract and try free agency? The Mets could also pick up that option and trade Wright, acknowledging that they can't really afford to sign him to the sort of long-term, big-money contract that he's earned.
Mets fans can look past all that—or at least engage in some denial—with an opportunity to watch some young talent and think about the future.
Calling up Wheeler provides a reason to watch this team every five days.
Most fans have just seen numbers and scouting reports but haven't seen him actually pitch. Calling him up to the majors would give people a chance to see what sort of pitcher he is. How hard does he throw? Can he blow away big league hitters with his fastball? Is his curveball nasty? What other pitches does he have in his arsenal?
Of course, if Wheeler gets initially knocked around by major league hitters, that could be depressing for Mets fans. Fear over whether he's as good as his billing could set in. But that's the risk taken when prospects are called up to the majors. Mets fans are smart enough to know that it's a growing process for young pitchers.
Stick with the Six-Man Rotation
A week ago, the Mets decided to expand to a six-man rotation in an effort to give Johan Santana and Chris Young some extra rest through the end of the season. Both pitchers were working their way through their first full seasons since shoulder surgery and were in danger of being overextended.
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After Santana's most recent start on Aug. 17 during which he gave up six runs and seven hits in five innings, it just became apparent that something was preventing Santana from pitching at his best. He had allowed six runs or more in his past five starts.
As reported by ESPN New York's Mike Mazzeo, a MRI exam revealed inflammation in Santana's lower back. Subsequently, the Mets have decided to shut Santana down for the rest of the year.
But even with Santana now out of the Mets rotation for the remainder of the season, a six-man rotation is still a good idea. R.A. Dickey and Jonathon Niese can pitch on a regular four days of rest. But Young still needs extra rest for his surgically repaired shoulder. In addition, rookie Matt Harvey has already pitched more innings than he did last season and will need to be limited.
Collin McHugh was called up from Triple-A Buffalo and pitched seven shutout innings vs. the Colorado Rockies on Thursday (Aug. 23). But he's also thrown more innings than he did last year and his workload will have to be limited through the end of the season.
Jeremy Hefner provides one last arm to fill out a six-man rotation. But he's been somewhat disappointing in his seven starts, going 2-4 with a 5.63 ERA.
The Mets should take the opportunity to find out if Wheeler can do better than that and let Hefner help out in the bullpen during September.
Head Start on 2013
With 2012 now becoming a lost season, the Mets need to figure out what they have for next year. As Matthew Cerrone wrote at MetsBlog, it's time to start building.
But with reports that the Mets plan on keeping their 2013 payroll near the $90 million it was this year, there isn't going to be much opportunity to bring in some new blood through free agency.
Changes can be made through trades, of course, and my fellow MLB lead writer Zach Rymer listed several possibilities the Mets could attempt. However, any possible deals will probably have to help fill holes in the outfield and bullpen.
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For the starting rotation, the Mets have young arms, a commodity few major league teams enjoy. Matt Harvey has already shown he's capable of pitching in the majors. McHugh may have as well, though he only has one start to judge.
Wheeler could give the Mets a trio of exciting prospects to go with veterans Dickey and Niese. He's only made four starts in Triple-A, but does he have much more to prove at that level? The Mets have to find out if he's ready to pitch in the majors, rather than make an informed guess.
If Wheeler isn't ready, then Mets general manager Sandy Alderson knows he probably has to bring in another starting pitcher next season. But there's no way of knowing that without seeing what Wheeler can do against big league competition.
The Mets have nothing to lose by giving Wheeler a try in September. Well, other than fan interest through the rest of this season and into 2013. Why take that risk? Give them something to get excited about.
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