May 29, 2018

Mets Pitcher: Zack Wheeler (2013-2018)

Zachary Harrison Wheeler was born May 30th 1990, in Smyrna, Georgia. The six foot four left hander, attended East Paulding High School in Georgia. In his senior year he was 9-0, getting voted the Georgia Player of the Year by Baseball America.

In 2009 Wheeler was the San Francisco Giants number one pick, the sixth pick overall in that years draft. After a year in the South Atlantic League, he pitched at A Ball San Jose going 7-5 with a 3.99 ERA posting 98 strike outs in 88 innings, getting named to the All Star team. That July he was traded to the New York Mets in exchange for Carlos Beltran.

Wheeler came to the Mets as a highly touted prospect with lots of hope for the future. 

Wheeler closed out 2011 at A Ball St. Lucie where he went 2-2 with a 2.00 ERA. In 2012 he pitched at AA Binghamton (19 games) leading the club in wins (10) going 10-8 with 117 strike outs in 116 innings posting a 3.26 ERA, making another All Star team. He was moved up to AAA Buffalo (six games) where he went 2-2 with a 3.27 ERA. 

Overall his 12 wins tied Gonzalez Germen for the most wins by a Mets farmhand. His 148 combined strike outs were best among Mets minor leaguers & he was 9th in the league in ERA (3.26).

In 2013 he entered the year as Baseball America's #13 prospect & was one of the most watched players at Mets Spring Training. He started out well but strained an oblique muscle while taking batting practice. The Mets wanted him to start in the minors despite the anticipation the fans & media had for him at the big league level.

Wheeler began the year at AAA Las Vegas with the 51's. In 13 games he was 4-2 with 73 strike outs & 27 walks in 68 innings. On June 18th, he got the much awaited big league debut, coming in the second game of a double header in his native Georgia, at Atlanta. Matt Harvey had gotten the start & the win in the first game. Everyone was saying that this was the Mets one & two pitchers of the future in a a winning era.


Wheeler After His First Career Win In Atlanta
Wheeler pitched six innings, allowing no runs on four hits while striking out seven, while walking five to earn his first career win, a 6-1 victory. 

His next start was in Chicago & the White Sox got him for four runs in 5.1 innings in a no decision. On June 30th he gave up five runs & took his first career loss coming against the Washington Nationals.

 
 July proved to be a good month for Wheeler, on July 5th he went five innings in Milwaukee allowing just one earned run in a 12-5 Mets win. On July 12th in San Francisco he beat the Giants 7-2, getting his record to 3-1, as he allowed just one run on three hits in seven innings. As the Braves came to Citi Field, Wheeler posted another victory, pitching six innings allowing just two runs. A



After a loss to Kansas City he posted three more victories in the month of August. On August 15th he struck out 12 Padres in San Diego over six innings but had no decisions in the 4-1 Mets win. He closed out September with two losses finishing up the year at 7-5 with 84 strike outs 46 walks & a 3.42 ERA in 100 innings pitched in 17 starts.

In 2014 the Mets lost Matt Harvey to Tommy John surgery for the season, Wheelers' position on the staff was even more important. He began the year at 0-2, on April 14th in Arizona he got his first win pitching into the seventh inning, beating the D-backs 7-3.

It took over a month to gain another victory, even though he had had some good outings with no run support. On May 7th he shut out the Marlins in Miami over six innings but got no decision. June saw Wheeler fall to 2-7 before his best outing of the year came.

On June 19th he pitched his first complete game, a three hit eight strike out performance in Miami to beat the Marlins 1-0. That win put Wheeler in a good groove, after a loss to the Oakland A's, he went on to win his next six decisions through July until late August. 

In that time he pitched into the seventh inning, ten of thirteen starts. In five straight starts in July he never allowed more than one run.

In September he beat the Reds in Cincinnati & then shut out the Braves for six innings in Atlanta. He also took a loss to the Nationals in one of his worst outings where he allowed six earned runs. For 2014 he went 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA, 187 strike outs (10th in the NL) & 79 walks (3rd most in the NL) in 185 innings pitched over 32 starts. His 9.081 strike outs per nine innings was 6th best in the league.



Wheeler with his girl friend
There was a lot of excitement going into the Mets 2015 season, particularly with their pitching staff. As Wheeler was penciled in for a top three spot in the rotation, along with Matt Harvey returning from Tommy John surgery & Jacob deGrom coming off his Rookie of the Year season. 

But in Spring Training Wheeler & the Mets got the bad news that he had a torn ulnar collateral ligament. On March 25, Wheeler underwent successful Tommy John surgery, performed by Dr. David Altchek to repair the torn UCL in his elbow. Wheeler missed the entire 2015 season. He was thrilled for his team mates & rooted them on as the went all the way to the World Series.

In July when rumors swirled that he was traded along with Wilmer Flores to Milwaukee he was very upset but completely thrilled when the deal didn't go thru. He was outspoken about it saying how glad he was to be a Met & anxious to join the club in 2016.


Wheeler was hopeful to join the Mets rotation in July, & began to throw softly again at Spring Training 2016 where he joined his pitching pals. He started out the year on the 60 day disabled list. On August 6th he finally made a start at St. Lucie but only threw 17 pitches & was diagnosed with a mild flexor strain. He would be shut down for year by September.



Quotes: Zack Wheeler-It's been tough, mental side and physical side, You have good days, bad days arm-wise, mostly good, but those bad days, they are there and you just have to keep in mind this is what it takes to get back on the field. Some days you don’t feel like going in that weight room, but you have to remind yourself where you want to be once you do get back up there.’’

When asked about pitching inside he told the NY Post this winter- “People have gotten away from that, people are getting soft these days. I don’t care, if somebody is showing me up or throwing at one of our guys, you are going to get something inside to let you know I noticed that.’’

2017: In 2017 he pitched at Spring Training & the Mets made it clear he would be watched closely when the season began. Wheeler made his 2017 & long awaited return on April 7th at Citi Field. That day the Miami Marlins hit him up for five runs on six hits in a 7-2 loss.

In his next start, he earned his first win in almost three years, beating the Phillies in Philadelphia 5-4. He would earn two no decisions in outings where he allowed just one earned run each time to close out April.


On May 9th he had his best start of the season up to that point. Wheeler went six innings allowing just one run on two hits striking out four Giants, as the Mets earned him his second win of the year in a 6-1 triumph over San Francisco at Citi Field.

 On May 15th in Arizona, he pitched seven innings allowing just one run with a season vest six strike outs but the Mets bullpen took the 7-3 loss to the Diamondbacks. On May 20th Wheeler earned his third & final victory of the 2017 season, beating the Anaheim Angels.


Over the next two months he would go 0-5, including back to back disasters on June 13th (against the Cubs) & June 19th (against the Dodgers) where he allowed seven earned runs or more each time. Both came with less than two innings pitched & six or more hits allowed as well.

On June 21st he was placed on the DL with bicep tendinitis, on July 24th he was back on DL with with a stress fracture in his right arm. On August 24th he was officially shut down for the season. In 17 games he was 3-7 with a 5.21 ERA 81 strike outs & 40 walks in 86 innings of work.

In Spring Training 2018 he came in fighting for a spot in the rotation, especially after the Mets signed Jason Vargas, which irritated Wheeler. Unfortunately after a decent start everything went down hill. He ended the Spring getting demoted to AAA.


Wheeler had an opportunity here to make this team, and to be blunt he just didn’t get it done,” pitching coach Dave Eiland said. “Some guys out-pitched him, so he needs to go pitch. We are a better team when Zack Wheeler pitches like Zack Wheeler is capable.”

Quotes: “I really haven’t proved myself this spring,” Wheeler, a right-hander, said. “I saw it coming, but I was hoping that it wouldn’t.

Ten games into the 2018 season he was called up making his debut on April 11th. He had his best start thru May as he went seven shut out innings, allowing two hits, striking out seven earning a win in Miami against the Marlins. He lost his next start & then gave up four runs in a no decisions to the Cardinals at Bush Stadium.

In April 29th in San Diego, he got his second win as the Mets beat the Padres 14-2. In that game he struck out a season high nine batters. On May 4th he was shellacked for eight runs on ten hits over six terrible innings against the Rockies at Citi Field. His ERA ballooned to 5.79. 

Two starts later he gave up six more runs and another loss. By Memorial Day he was 2-4 with a 5.40 ERA, another disappointment on a disappointing staff & team.

In four shortened, injury ridden seasons he is 23-27 with a 4.08 ERA, 405 Ks 184 walks in 421 innings over 75 starts.

Family: His older brother Jacob is a photographer & poet who has combined his arts for public displays. He had given up baseball due to a heart condition.

No comments: