Is Zack Wheeler The Guy For The Orioles?

Zachary Ball@MLBDraftCntdwnAnalyst IJune 9, 2009

Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun makes it about 10 different sources, including MASN Sport's Roch Kubatko and MiLB writer/blogger Jonathan Mayo, who think the Baltimore Oriole's have already decided to take Georgia prepster Zack Wheeler with the No. 5 pick in today's MLB draft.

After flirting with practical needs like Grant Green, and daydreaming about Strasburg and Dustin Ackley falling to them, it seems the O's may have settled on Wheeler, which is not the worst thing in the world.

Yes, he's no Alex White or Aaron Crow, but some say that Wheeler has a higher ceiling than any of those guys.

Checking out MLB.com's draft report on him, it looks like he's a scrawny right-hander. At 6'4'' and 170 pounds, he could definitely stand to put on some weight and that bodes extremely well considering he already throws upwards of 93 mph.

Chunk on a couple more pounds, say 20 or so, and this kid might be up in Strasburg territory (97-100 mph). 

They say his fastball has some sink on it, and I like that a lot. Consider the success of current O's pitcher Brad Bergesen, whose sinker is his best pitch, and prospect Zach Britton, who is second in the Carolina League (A+) in ERA thanks to his excellent sinker and ground ball ratio. 

They also say he has a plus curve, when it's on, which to me sounds like saying Rick Ankiel had excellent command as a pitcher, when he was on.

I'll take it though.

Look at what Orioles prospect Brian Matusz has been able to do with a great curveball this year. 

Lastly, they say his changeup, far and away his third pitch, could end up being an average pitch. Not exactly awe-inspiring, but provided he fills out and learns to control his other pitches, I'll take a three pitch guy.

The biggest knock on Wheeler has been his control, and frankly, THAT kind of scares me. The O's didn't have the best of luck taming the control issues that plagued Adam Loewen, Daniel Cabrera, and it looked like they just got lucky with Erik Bedard. They say Wheeler is a "project-able high school pitcher with a lot of arm strength." 

And here comes the shocker.

They conclude that Wheeler is ultimately a "project" with considerable upside. That scares me too, especially when you know control pitchers like Kyle Gibson and Aaron Crow are going to be on the board when the Oriole's pick. 

Ultimately, you have to figure, the O's have hit with Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Chris Tillman and at least one of Chorye Spoone, Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken, and David Hernandez should work out, so it seems like the O's are the perfect fit for a guy with ridiculous upside who needs plenty of seasoning in the minors. 

If the O's do take Wheeler, I wouldn't expect to see him in Baltimore until 2013 at the earliest.

And who knows?

Maybe he'll be the missing piece, either in the rotation or in a David Price-type role in the bullpen, aiding the O's to a playoff berth. I'd give the O's a B+ if they take Wheeler with the fifth pick.


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