After the San Francisco Giants selected right-hander Zack Wheeler with the No.6 overall pick in the 2009 Major League First-Year Player Draft, he told the MLB Network that all he wanted to do was go out there and play some ball.
The deal may have gotten done just minutes before the signing deadline, but the 19-year-old Dallas, Ga. native is finally going to get his chance to play after agreeing to a contract with the Giants that includes a $3.3 million bonus. Because it's a 2010 deal, Wheeler won't make his professional debut until next season. He will go to Arizona to work out until the minor league seasons come to a close and then he'll participate in the Giants' fall instructional league.
The bonus is almost one million above the estimated $2.34 million suggest slot according to Baseball America.
At 6'4", 185-pound, Wheeler is yet another young power-arm that the Giants add to their system that has been turned into one of the best in recent years. He has excellent arm speed and, as you can see, a prototypical pitching frame that allows him to throw a power fastball that tops out at 96 MPH, but he usually sits it in the low 90s.
His resume speaks for itself: As a senior at East Paulding High School, he went 9-0 with a 0.54 ERA and struck out 151 and walked 20 in 77 2/3 innings. Even more impressive, Wheeler allowed 31 hits in those 77 2/3 innings pitched, as opponents batted .118 against him. His senior season included a no-hitter in the first round of the Georgia state playoffs and a two-hit complete game in the quarterfinals where he struck out 15.
To cap off his senior year, Wheeler was named the 2009 Gatorade High School Player of the Year for Georgia. Wheeler finished his four-year varsity career with a 95-36 record.
His junior season wasn't too shabby either, going 8-2 with a 1.31 ERA and 127 strikeouts in just 64 1/3 innings.
Giants Draft guru Dick Tidrow feels that Wheeler could progress through the team's system much like 2007 first round pick and top pitching prospect Madison Bumgarner has in his two seasons with the Giants.
How fast he moves and develops will depend on how Wheeler can develop his secondary stuff to compliment his 96 MPH gas.
If he can add a consistent breaking ball and solid change-up to his arsenal, he will certainly move through the system quickly as Bumgarner has.
With the Giants trading their other top pitching prospects, RHP Tim Alderson and LHP Scott Barnes, at the deadline to acquire veteran bats in the form of Ryan Garko and Freddy Sanchez, Wheeler will most likely become the second-best arm behind Bumgarner in the prospect rankings.
For now though, Giants management and fans can breath easy because their top pick in the 2009 Draft is signed, sealed, and delivered.