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Saturday, February 27, 2016

2016 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: ZACK WHEELER SP NEW YORK METS

With the New York Mets getting set to defend their 2015 NL East title and go back to the World Series, the hype machine has gone into overdrive concerning their starting rotation.  Blessed with a stable of young arms that all can throw high heat and rack up strikeouts by the bunches, the Mets head into the season with four ace-level starters in Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndegaard, and Steven Matz.  With veteran Bartolo Colon rounding out the group, the Mets have hands down the best rotation in baseball.  However there is one name missing from the group who will be a factor sometime in the summer and who at this time last year was firmly included in the prized young fireballing group on the team.  We of course are referring to Zack Wheeler who currently is rehabbing from last Tommy John elbow surgery last March and a big step is soon to be taken there amid reports he will throw from a mound in the next few days.  With that said, Wheeler stands a very good chance to being back at the start of July and his 98-mph fastball will slide in nicely in the Met rotation.  As always, let's dig in a bit more on Wheeler and find out what he could supply his owners this season.

When it comes to Wheeler, we have to go back to 2014 to revisit his ability and tendencies as a pitcher.  Again Wheeler was right there with Harvey, Syndegaard, Matz, and DeGrom as far as unlimited ceiling and possessing a golden arm.  Acquired by the Mets from the San Francisco Giants in the Carlos Beltran trade, Wheeler debuted in 2013 and opened more than a few eyes in pitching to a 3.42 ERA while showcasing a fastball that routinely sat in the 96-98 range and even on occasion hit 100.  Despite all the power in his arm though, Wheeler was far from a finished product as he struggled with his control more than a bit and his fastball came in a bit straight which resulted in fewer strikeouts than anticipated as shown by a somewhat mediocre 7.54 K rate.  However all in all it was an impressive debut and Wheeler was thus looked at as a prime breakout guy for 2014. 

With regards to his 2014 campaign, Wheeler made some serious strides as he bumped his K rate up more than a little to an impressive 9.08, while also lowering his BB/9 from 2013's 4.14 to 2014's 3.84.  The walk rate remained ugly but Wheeler was very stingy with the hits and he was figuring out how to use his blazing fastball to pick up strikeouts and thus improve his previously shaky pitch efficiency.  While the ERA rose a bit to 3.54, Wheeler was looking like the real deal who was sitting on a major jump in numbers in 2015.  By now we all know what happened next as Wheeler complained of pain in his elbow one day early in 2015 spring training and the result was a torn UCL which required Tommy John.  Now just getting up to speed as he gets set to throw off a mound, Wheeler is still expected to be ready during the summer where he can possibly supply some impressive value. 

So in looking ahead to 2016, an investment in Wheeler comes with the understanding you will only be getting about three months of production from the guy.  Still Wheeler's high-powered arsenal could result in a bunch of strikeouts and a tidy ERA.  The control figures to still be a big issue coming off the surgery but overall Wheeler looks like a find upside pick late in your draft.

2016 PROJECTION:  7-4 3.57 ERA 1.29 WHIP 119 K 

 

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