Zack Wheeler threw batting practice yesterday and, as was to be expected, impressed everyone in the vicinity. Most mentioned were his velocity and the late movement on his impressive fastball. He also showed a preview of his breaking stuff with a few curves thrown in. This writer has seen clips of him in the minors and can testify to the fact that his breaking stuff is absolutely nasty. Combining this with an upper-90s fastball with movement makes for one serious prospect.
Of course, it is February, and the Nattering Nabobs of Negativity will chime in about how impressive BP is, Generation K, and other assorted annoying blather, but as anyone who has followed the career of this kid–and especially those who have seen clips of him pitch–can agree with, he has a shot to be a number 1 in the bigs.
Matt Harvey surely was impressive in the minors and even more so in his first MLB season, but Wheeler has a chance to be even better.
Growing up in Georgia and starring in basketball as well as baseball in high school, Wheeler was undefeated in his senior year and named Gatorade High School Pitcher of the Year in his state in 2009. He was then the sixth overall pick of the Giants, who appear to have had a good handle on who is a good pitching prospect in the last decade.
Wheeler has moved relatively quickly through the minors, and while there have been brief struggles at each level, overall he has posted very good numbers everywhere he has been since coming to the Mets. He walks a few too many, but strikes out a batter an inning, allows relatively few hits, and gives up almost no HR.
The book on him personally is that he is a very quiet, unassuming individual, who is quite serious about his work, but is also a very humble, laid back person who has changed little since becoming a wealthy man after receiving $3.3 million from the Giants. Folks say that his only major expense was a souped up, tricked out Dodge Ram 2500 diesel, which, according to Mets.com, he “drives around his hometown of Dallas, Ga., like a parade float.” Yes, there is a hell of a lot to like about this kid.
Of course, the whiners and naysayers will continue to bleat about Generation K, but they always seem to forget a couple of other generations: how about the generation of Seaver/Koosman/McGraw/Ryan/Matlack? Or the generation of Gooden/Darling/Fernandez/Aguilera/Orosco/McDowell?
This writer openly admits his bias towards starting pitching, as the feeling here is that with a group of starters such as the Mets appear to be building, a team can win a lot of games with simply a bunch of solid fundamental players behind them. A rotation which may in two years be led by Wheeler/Harvey/Niese/Syndergaard has the potential to make folks forget about Generation K.
It’s February 21, the spring games begin soon, and really, if one cannot be optimistic and simply enjoy the game at this time of year, one might need a new hobby.
Especially with the group of kids the Mets have in camp this time around.