The New York Mets were wowed in spring training this week by one of their top prospects. It was not the hitting and fielding expertise of top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud. Instead, it was 22-year-old starting pitcher Zack Wheeler surprising some veterans with his stuff.
Wheeler was the centerpiece of the Carlos Beltran trade made at the deadline in 2011. On Wednesday, Wheeler threw 30 pitches off the mound in live batting practice to teammates Justin Turner, Marlon Byrd and John Buck. Byrd, who signed a minor league contract with the team this offseason, was especially impressed with the young pitcher. The former Chicago Cubs outfielder claimed that Wheeler not only looked like a major league pitcher, but also has the talent to be an ace. Byrd even used Detriot Tigers star Justin Verlander, who is the best pitcher in the MLB and a former Cy Young and MVP award winner, as a comparison.
Despite already exceeding expectations, New York has announced that Wheeler is likely to start the season in the minor leagues, as their rotation is filled. Wheeler needs to improve his control, however, if he continues to excel could be called up to the major leagues by the end of the upcoming season. The Mets have five solid starters already, but if the team or the bottom half of the rotation struggles, Wheeler could get his shot. New York is already looking towards next season, and getting Wheeler some professional experience this season could give him a better chance to succeed in 2014 and further on in his career, as Marlon Byrd and the Mets expect he will.