After a long comeback, the New York Mets are being forced to take a serious look at Zack Wheeler sooner than expected for a rotation spot.
For what feels like a decade, the New York Mets and their fans have only dreamt of seeing the highly coveted ‘Five Aces’ pitch together in the same rotation. There has not been one five game stretch where pitchers Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler all pitched consecutively.
The closest the Amazins’ got to this elusive dream was 2015, in which the four horseman of Queens carried the Mets to the World Series. The team could only imagine what type of success they could have had with all five aces pitching together.
It appears this dream may be coming to reality.
In Monday’s start against the Miami Marlins, Wheeler had his best game all spring. He threw five innings of shutout baseball, while allowing a mere four baserunners. Pair this stat-line with him having thrown fastballs consistently at 94-96 mph, a sharp curveball for strikes and an unhittable slider that produced multiple swing-and-misses, it appears as though Wheeler is ready to go.
Mets fans may not realize the magnitude a healthy Wheeler has for the ball club. With all of the unfortunate and lengthy setbacks he has had over the past few seasons, many Mets fans forgot just how dominate the kid can be.
When healthy, Wheeler can throw both a two and four seam fastball (94-95 MPH), a slider (88 MPH), a curveball (78 MPH) and a changeup (86 MPH).
Wheeler is a fantastic arm with ace potential, so don’t let the injuries fool you. The Mets have just had the luxury of carrying multiple aces so they didn’t feel the need to rush Wheeler back.
Keep in mind that he was traded for slugger Carlos Beltran in 2011. At the time of the trade, Beltran — arguably a future hall of famer — was hitting .289 with 15 home runs and 66 RBIs. Clearly, both sides saw just how special Wheeler — the No. 33 prospect at the time — could be.
Besides adding yet another young-gun to the pitching staff, let’s take a look at what else a healthy Wheeler does for this year’s Mets squad:
There is no such thing as too much starting pitching, as the Mets were made painfully aware of last season. Adding Wheeler to the Mets already loaded pitching staff gives the Mets much needed flexibility.
Injuries to pitchers go together like peanut butter and jelly. It’s sad, but that’s just the reality. There will be a point this season where at least one of the regular starters will not be able to pitch. With the addition of Wheeler, the Mets will now hold seven starting pitchers, each fully capable of 15 win seasons on their own.
This takes a tremendous amount of pressure off of each starter. Instead of rushing back from injury in order to help the team, they can now wait until they are 100 percent healthy, knowing their replacement will help the team win in their stead.
A healthy Wheeler gives manager Terry Collins a wide variety of new options. Collins can base the fifth starter on who is performing the best out of Wheeler, Gsellman and Lugo. Rather than only having five starting pitching options like most MLB teams, the Mets have seven viable options.
Collins can also opt to implement a six man rotation at any point during the year. This will reduce the workload of everyone on the staff, keeping them healthy and fresh for an October run. Even with a six man staff, Collins can choose to have one of the starters skip their start for extra rest, because Seth Lugo — assuming he is the odd-man out — can fill in for a spot start.
The addition of Wheeler also significantly helps the Mets’ bullpen.
First, having seven quality starting pitchers will result in fewer games in which the bullpen is forced to pitch six-plus innings and carry the team. When the bullpen has to do this, the pitchers often throw more pitches than they normally would, and it causes them to tire out and take a longer time to recover. This shouldn’t be an issue for the Mets anymore, as they will have two effective long relievers in the ‘pen.
Collins can also choose to keep either Lugo or Wheeler in the bullpen. Not only will this reduce the workload of each reliever, either could very well become the seventh inning bridge to reach set up man Addison Reed.
Lugo only allowed a run in the first inning of games he started twice last season. Combine this with his awareness that he’s only expected to pitch one inning, he will be able to throw his best stuff, rather than save his energy for later innings. He can be a very dominant back-end relief pitcher, and this may come in handy with the pending suspension of closer Jeurys Familia.
The addition of Wheeler to the Mets roster is a huge benefit to this organization. Don’t be surprised when the stats of all the other pitchers improve, as this will be no coincidence.