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Zack Wheeler Emerging as Top Line Starter for New York Mets

July 30th, 2014 at 7:36 PM
By Mike Phillips

Since he came to the New York Mets in the Carlos Beltran trade a few years ago, expectations have been sky high for Zack Wheeler. Wheeler was widely expected to team with Matt Harvey to form a dynamic 1-2 punch in the Mets' starting rotation. Expectations for Wheeler skyrocketed when Harvey took the league by storm last season. Wheeler has been slower to develop than Harvey, but he appears to finally be coming into his own.

After recording the worst start of his career on June 25th (2 IP, 6 ER), Wheeler has pitched at another level for the last month. Wheeler is 3-0 with a miniscule 1.63 ERA over his last six starts since that June 25th debacle against the Oakland A's. Wheeler has managed to improve his control, his biggest problem since joining the Mets. After surviving a five walk outing against the Atlanta Braves on June 30th, Wheeler hasn't walked more than two batters in a game in his last five outings. Wheeler does pitch to contact so he gets a lot of men on base, but Wheeler has shown significant improvement in his ability to get out of jams. Wheeler's ERA has lowered nearly a full run over this stretch, from a high of 4.45 after that A's start to 3.60 now. 

Wheeler's development is an exciting prospect for the Mets, who have seen their young pitching begin to blossom over the last few weeks. Wheeler and Jacob deGrom both rank among the top five pitchers in the National League in ERA in July. Wheeler has also pitched very well despite receiving minimal run support from the Mets. The Mets had done next to nothing for Wheeler this season at the plate, scoring three runs or fewer for him in 16 of Wheeler's first 21 starts. Wheeler is showing he can be a top of the rotation pitcher now, and he can be a strong second starter on the Mets' staff next season when Harvey returns.

The Mets could walk into next season with a starting five of Harvey, Wheeler, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee, and deGrom. That is already an impressive group, and it doesn't even include Bartolo Colon, who is still under contract but on the trading block now, or prospects Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero. Wheeler's emergence is a key for the staff going forward, so the Mets have to be thrilled with what they're seeing.

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