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.