By William Coppola
We have heard about Zach Wheeler for five years now and know nothing about him.
The Mets traded 34 year old Carlos Beltran to San Francisco, for 21- year old Wheeler in July of 2011. The Giants thought so highly of him, that he was their first pick in the 2009 draft and sixth overall. With a live fastball ranging from 94 to 97 mph, a nasty 78-80 mph curve, an equally above average sharp slider and nice change with fade and drop, he has the potential to be at the top of the Mets rotation.
I know, he hasn’t pitched in two years due to Tommy John surgery and a minor flexor strain, but he is for real. Those two years on the DL have made us forget about just how good this kid is and I believe he could push Matt Harvey back a few notches in the rotation.
Harvey having struggled with his own medical issues, is still a question mark for me. Where as Wheeler, is about to show us what he can do in a whole season of work, as he compiles innings. Young pitchers, need innings. The more he pitches, the better he will get.
I like his smooth delivery and command of all his pitches. Will he be an All Star? Well as Bill Parcells once said about a young Tony Romo, “Hold off with the anointing oil guys”. With Wheeler, we will have to see if all this medical technology works. If it does, he will be a very good big league pitcher.
The new medical procedures used today, to keep these young players in the game longer, are not a guarantee that they will be the same prior to the procedure. The names of the type of injuries now are so different from years ago and over the past few years.
I have read, written and spoken about so many medical terms, that I probably could pass the test to get into John Hopkins medical college and study reconstructive surgery. Years ago a pitcher had a sore arm and “worked it out”. The players today, will have an injury that sounds like something made up for a science fiction movie.
If this guy can get through this year, and the next without a major injury, and get in 130 or so innings this year he will be the missing link to a brilliant group of good young Mets arms. If all five arms, Noah Synderggard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey and now Wheeler stay healthy, the Mets will be playing exciting and meaningful games in the next few Octobers.
Coming back from Tommy John surgery is no easy task, nor is it a given that he will be the same pitcher who could throw a ball through a brick wall. So who is Zach Wheeler? We will soon find out.
William Coppola is a contributing writer to the Bronx Chronicle. He begins his 41st year involved with baseball as a coach, instructor and scout