Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/8/14
Zack Wheeler‘s spring debut set the prospect world abuzz as the right-hander showed elite stuff in two scoreless innings of work. Having seen him pitch twice for the Augusta GreenJackets in 2010, Wheeler’s outing is an example of projection blooming into production. Reading through older reports while watching Hotel Transylvania left me looking for “The Zing”, or the moment when one becomes smitten with a prospect knowing he’ll be special. Wheeler provided one of those in 2010 when I wrote, “Wheeler had a definite “wow” factor which the overwhelming majority of prospects simply do not have. Behind Julio Teheran, he’s the second best pitcher I have ever seen at the level and has true impact starter upside.” Seeing Wheeler pitch in Grapefruit League action is an opportunity to reflect on memories from three seasons ago, and identify areas where he has grown. In 2010, Wheeler suffered a cracked fingernail resulting in his throwing just 58 2/3 innings. While working to regain his arm strength, my first look at Wheeler was out of the bullpen where his fastball dominated South Atlantic League Hitters. At the time, I wrote, “At 94-96 MPH, Wheeler’s fastball exploded on top of Sand Gnats hitters. His long stride created excellent downward plane with a touch of arm side fade. In this outing, he appeared to be rearing back trying to light up the radar gun instead of working to command the pitch.” A couple of weeks later, I was afforded a second look at Wheeler as a starter. Over multiple innings, Wheeler’s fastball sat at 92-94 MPH. For the level, it was still elite velocity, but not nearly as impressive as when he threw with max effort. Fast forward to 2013 and Wheeler frequently popped 96 MPH on the radar gun with ease — Especially from the stretch. Anything 92-94 was a two-seam fastball, and Wheeler was able to maintain both the downward plane and arm side fade (See his Bryce Harper sequence) from early in his development. Wheeler’s curveball was also improved from the inconsistent breaking pitch scouted in 2010. “Thrown in the low-80′s, Wheeler’s curveball is a harder offering than I normally see at the level. With tight, sharp break, the pitch exhibits wipeout potential in the bullpen. although he hung it a couple of times in game action, Wheeler creates plenty of depth with enough glove side run to make it more of a 11-5 offering.” In his start, the curveball was even less impressive as Wheeler struggled to command the pitch while presenting with decreased velocity. Against the Nationals, Wheeler’s curveball was more of a true, 12-6 offering instead of presenting with “slurvy” movement. He paired it with an upper-80′s slider not seen in 2010. It’s a true power stuff, but don’t forget about his changeup. It showed potential in Single-A and will be a legitimate fourth pitch at the Major League level. Beyond Wheeler’s arsenal, adjustments to mechanics and tempo have ironed out any rough spots in his delivery. The pause in his leg kick seen in 2010 is gone. A bit of “whippy” arm action in the back of his delivery is now smooth and easy. Wheeler’s finish carries his momentum through the pitch where he had a tendency to recoil just three seasons ago. The New York Mets open the season with three starters who missed significant time in 2012 due to injury. With Collin McHugh and Jenrry Mejia in the mix for starts should an injury occur, the organization can afford to be patient with Wheeler. However, their new affiliate in Las Vegas muddles the picture as the Blue Jays made a habit of jumping pitching prospects from Double-A to Toronto to avoid one of the worst pitcher’s environment in minor league baseball. So while starting the arbitration clock of the organization’s best prospect makes little sense from a financial standpoint, a trial by fire approach may be best for his development as a pitcher. Hat tip to Jeff Zimmerman for his help pulling the gif.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Panthers coach replaces break-in victims’ Christmas presents

Cardinals Bruce Arians benches Logan Thomas on Christmas Day

Richard Sherman: Marshawn Lynch having MVP season

Curt Schilling tweeted advice to Johnny Manziel

Aaron Rodgers buys TVs for Packers teammates

Harbaugh smiled when asked about Michigan's bday tweet

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Jackie Robinson West Little League accused of cheating

Police: Fire that burned down McClain's home 'suspicious'

Furniture store will refund purchases if OSU wins title

What each NFC team in the hunt should ask for from Santa

Is SI ashamed to mention Jameis Winston on its cover?

Kobe Bryant disappointed Lakers didn't get Rajon Rondo

Q&A with Rich Eisen; TNF, DirecTV and living in LA

Is the NFL playoff system heading south?

WATCH: Quincy Acy ejected for throwing punch at John Wall

Billy Beane did not want to trade Josh Donaldson

Peyton Manning plans to be back with Broncos next year

WATCH: Blazers announcer botches Damian Lillard call

WATCH: P.K. Subban disguises himself, surprises kids for Xmas

Baseball cards: a fan's love for the ultimate stocking stuffer

Packers game is a career defining moment for Stafford

A look inside Jason Grilli's contract with the Braves

10 Week 17 NFL matchups that will impact the playoffs

WATCH: Bahamas Bowl ends on insane Hail Mary play

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Q&A with Rich Eisen; TNF, DirecTV and living in LA

Dan Le Batard sums up Miami's relationship with LeBron

Is the NFL playoff system heading south?

WATCH: Announcer botches call

Police: McClain fire 'suspicious'

10 Week 17 NFL matchups that will impact the playoffs

Bahamas Bowl ends on crazy Hail Mary

49ers OT Davis takes shot at coordinator

Will FIFA ever care to change?

Top storyline for each Week 17 game

40 great Christmas-related sports names

Nick Mangold and dealing with feelings as a sports fan

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.