Wheeler: Leaving Las Vegas, Montero: Viva Las Vegas

Wheeler is scheduled to debut on June 18.

Wheeler is scheduled to debut on June 18.

Zack Wheeler looked sharp against Tacoma in his final tune-up before his imminent major league debut on June 18. Limited to 85 pitches, Wheeler went 5.2 innings, allowing a run on a solo homer by Carlos Peguero, walking 2 and striking out 7. Peguero’s homer was the only hit surrendered by the lanky right-hander.

He even impressed Tacoma’s manager, former Mets catcher John Stearns.

“He looked very good tonight: Those first five innings, he was just outstanding,” he said. “Throwing mid-90s with his fastball and two or three other pitches — he’s got the breaking ball down in the zone and the fastball up — he’s going to be a big league No. 1 or 2 starter for a long time, in my opinion.”

Wheeler’s numbers are eerily similar to Matt Harvey‘s numbers before his promotion last year. And not just his season numbers, but his career minor league numbers. Here’s further analysis about their similarities.

Rafael Montero has been promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas to take Wheeler’s place. Montero has been dominant this year at Double-A Binghamton, as he has been at every level in the minors. He got a spot start for the 51s earlier this year, and pitched very well, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits in 6.2 innings before the bullpen blew the game (get used to it, kid).

In what has been a dirge of a season thus far, we Mets fans need to cling to whatever positivity comes our way (for the sake of our mental health), and these two player moves are reason for hope.

Yes, it’s been said there is no such thing as a can’t-miss pitching prospect, but I’m allowing myself to be optimistic about both of these pitchers. Wheeler’s numbers combined with his plus stuff make it likely that he will succeed in the major leagues.

Meanwhile, Montero’s numbers are outstanding – even better than Wheeler’s in some categories. They say he doesn’t throw as hard as Wheeler and Harvey, but kind of lives in the 92-94 range with excellent command. That’s why his strikeout to walk ratio is nearly 6:1. His WHIP in three seasons of minor league ball is below 1.00.

Now he’ll get a true test of his abilities in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

We all remember the can’t-miss guys who missed (Bill Pulsipher, Paul Wilson, Yusmeiro Petit – mentioned in the article linked above). They had good minor league numbers too. But there have been hits as well (Harvey, Dwight Gooden, Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman).

The Mets are counting on the Wheelers and Monteros of the world to solidify their pitching staff for years to come. Let’s hope they live up to the billing.

Update: Terry Collins says Montero is on an innings limit this year – he’ll probably be capped at about 150. He’s thrown 73 innings so far this year. So we may not see him in September, but maybe next year.

Paul is a freelance writer, blogger, and broadcast technology professional residing in Denver. A New Jersey native, he is a long-suffering Mets fan, a recently-happy Giants fan, and bewildered Islanders fan. He's also a fair-weather Avalanche and Rockies supporter. In his spare time, he enjoys the three Gs: Golf, Guitars, and Games.
  1. blastingzone June 14, 2013 at 1:23 pm
    MMM, Montero to AAA and if he pitches the way he did in AA he will be promoted to the mets sometime after the all star break? August? Which means that he will get a real shot to make the starting staff in 2014 or get traded in a big deal for an right fielder with power! Imagine next years starting rotation, Harvey, Niese, Wheeler, Gee, and Montero (if he’s still with the mets) this starting staff could be one of the best in baseball and if Montero is replaced by Hefner as the fifth starter the mets will still have a strong staff in 2014!! Mean time Wheeler may be more
    talented than Harvey and if he ever gets command of all
    his pitches watch out baseball!!
    • Sidd Finch June 14, 2013 at 4:18 pm
      And by opening day 2015, it could look like this: Harvey, Wheeler, Niese, Montero, Syndgaard. But so many things can happen in the next 18 mos. Generation K being the cautionary tale here. The potential, however, for a monster pitching staff on par with the ’69-’75 era and ’84-’90 period is a real possibility.

      Not surprisingly, those years include some of the most successful of the franchise. Historically, when the Mets have dominating pitching staffs they’ve been successful. So let’s dream a bit. Reality will come soon enough.

  2. MikeKelm June 17, 2013 at 11:46 am
    I think if Wheeler pans out after he comes up, that makes Montero expendable… also known as trade bait.

    Harvey, Wheeler, Syndgaard, Neise are a good front four. Montero really doesn’t help you- you have a glut of pitching at the major league level you just won’t be able to unload (good luck getting rid of Hefner, Marcum or Gee- at least not as the main guy in a deal. And it doesn’t make sense to put Montero, who is a starter, in your bullpen.

    But what you could do is make him the centerpiece of a deal. While I don’t think the Marlins would do Montero for Stanton straight up (then again it is the Marlins, all bets are off)… I think Montero could be flipped to turn him into a power hitting outfielder and possibly a midlevel prospect.