It was a huge blow when the New York Mets found out last fall that ace Matt Harvey needed Tommy John surgery and would miss the 2014 season after being one of the best pitchers in baseball for much of the 2013 season. For many, Harvey’s absence changed the outlook of the 2014 season for the Mets, as it took away the team’s bona fide ace.
But the team actually has a pitcher on its staff capable of replicating Harvey’s success from last season, and that’s Zack Wheeler.
Much like Harvey made his MLB debut in the middle of the 2012 season, Wheeler made his first big league start in the middle of the 2013 season during a double-header against the Atlanta Braves, with Harvey quite appropriately starting the other game. Harvey ended up breaking out and having an incredible year in his first full season in the big leagues, and Wheeler has a chance to do the same in 2014 in his first full season in the majors.
After Harvey’s dominating performance in 2013, many have forgotten that a few years ago, Wheeler was a higher rated prospect than Harvey. Even though Harvey has far exceeded expectations, Wheeler still has better pure stuff than Harvey, meaning he is still capable of being the ace of the Mets’ staff and doing exactly what Harvey did for the Mets last year.
Heading into Spring Training this year, Wheeler has gotten lost in the shuffle to a certain extent. There’s been a lot of focus on Harvey’s absence, the addition of free agent Bartolo Colon and the presence of the Mets’ top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard. Somehow, many have looked past Wheeler’s talent and potential, and what he has a chance to do in his first full season in the majors.
If anything, that lack of attention on him will help Wheeler stay clear of any added pressure in Harvey’s presence and allow him to pitch up to his potential.
Now that Wheeler has some major league experience under his belt and has solidified a spot in the starting rotation, he may be ready to take the next step forward in his career. Everything that Harvey did last season, Wheeler has the talent to replicate this season — we just have to watch to see if he does it.