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    • Positive Mets News
  • To:All
  • 2/20/13
  • danthemetfan
<p>n Mets camp after humble beginnings, Wheeler at ease<br />Pitching prospect's journey to doorstep of Majors took years of hard work honing talent<br />By Anthony DiComo</p><p>PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- One of Zack Wheeler's first classrooms was a parking lot.</p><p>Family vacations to Florida were common back when Wheeler's brother, Adam, was a Minor Leaguer in the Yankees' organization, soaking up the instruction of Dwight Gooden, Billy Connors and one of the more respected pitching vanguards in modern baseball history.</p><p>At the time, the younger Wheeler was an undersized, undeveloped middle school student, so lacking in velocity that about a dozen local travel teams cut him from their ranks. He was still years away from becoming one of the most-hyped prospects in New York City baseball history, tabbed to lead a starting pitching renaissance in Flushing.</p><p>Those days, he was merely a skinny kid from Georgia, throwing to his professional brother, aching for the second-hand wisdom of Gooden and Connors and the pitching-rich Yankees.</p><p>"He knew where the information was coming from, and he knew it was good information," Adam Wheeler said by telephone from suburban Indiana, where he makes his living flipping houses. "At that age, he was working on stuff that I had just started working on in the Minors. When you know you're the only one out of all your friends getting Major League instruction, I'm sure that helped him out a lot."</p><p>Roughly a decade after Wheeler's first parking lot lesson, the Mets acquired him in one of the most significant trades in franchise history. It stands today as one of Sandy Alderson's two defining transactions as general manager, along with last winter's blockbuster acquisition of Travis d'Arnaud.</p><p>If both deals prove successful, the Mets could be on to something.</p><p>* * *<br />Athletics run in Wheeler's family. His mother, Elaine, grew up playing softball and basketball, while his father, Barry, joined competitive baseball leagues as an adult. Wheeler's eldest brother, Jacob, played baseball and basketball until a heart condition interfered; Adam was a 13th-round Draft pick of the Yankees.</p><p>Zack's talent took longer to develop. Always skinny, he was also short as a child despite the height in his gene pool. Because Wheeler was seven years younger than his closest sibling, his brothers rarely let him play in their pickup games. They gave him a whistle instead and told him to ref.</p><p>Little changed once Wheeler reached his teenage years. His fastball velocity was so pedestrian as a middle schooler that, within the baseball hotbed of suburban Atlanta, roughly a dozen travel teams refused to give him a uniform. Had Barry not pulled enough strings to land his son on a less discriminating club, Wheeler probably would have quit the sport altogether.</p><p>"I wasn't that kid who stood out in front of anybody," he said. "Everybody thinks that it came natural. I actually had to work for it."</p><p>Around the time he hit high school, Wheeler also hit a growth spurt, his velocity rising high into the 80s and finally the 90s, where it sat when the Giants selected him sixth overall in the 2009 Draft. He signed, and -- like many top pitching prospects -- bulled his way through the lower levels of the Minors by relying on little more than his now-superlative fastball.</p><p>Wheeler's stock rose. Two years later, when Mets scouts fanned across the country in search of trade targets for outfielder Carlos Beltran, they took note. One of them, Roy Smith, offered glowing reports of the kid from Georgia. Smith's superiors bit.</p><p>"Once Wheeler was in play," said Mets special assistant J.P. Ricciardi, who coordinated the scouting effort, "he was the No. 1 guy."</p><p>Beltran became a Giant, Wheeler a Met, and over the next season and a half the right-hander learned how and when best to deploy his secondary pitches, how to command his fastball, how to become more consistent. Standard stuff, but Wheeler took to the lessons about as well as any prospect can.</p><p>His organizational debut in the Florida State League was electric, with a 2.00 ERA, 31 strikeouts and five walks over 27 innings. Wheeler topped that last year by posting a 3.26 ERA in 25 starts split between the top two levels of the Minors.</p><p>It is worth noting that some prospects spend years stuck at Double-A, the most significant developmental hurdle. Wheeler spent four months.</p><p>As the club's No. 2 prospect as ranked by MLB.com, he is at the cusp of the big leagues, and although he will not make the team out of Spring Training -- a need for more seasoning is the official reasoning, but the Mets also want to delay his service-time clock -- he should arrive around the All-Star break.</p><p>"He's done everything we would have liked him to do," vice president of scouting and player development Paul DePodesta said, "and maybe even beyond that. He's been terrific."</p><p>* * *<br />Wheeler's only splurge upon signing a $3.3 million Draft contract with the Giants was a bright red Dodge Ram 2500 diesel, which he drives around his hometown of Dallas, Ga., like a parade float. He lifted it, installed new tires and rims, a new grille, smoke stacks for the exhaust and steel bumpers on the front and back.</p><p>In a region of Georgia that Adam Wheeler describes as "counnnn-try," stressing the first syllable, Zack stands out.</p><p>"There's a ton of big trucks out there," his brother said, "but he, of course, had to get the biggest one."</p><p>If any of Wheeler's family members happen to take the Dodge for a spin, Zack receives text messages asking if he is in town. Should his baseball career earn him another big contract, Wheeler says, he will purchase something more practical: a custom-made muscle car.</p><p>It may be a flamboyant hobby, yet the roads of Paulding County are the only stage on which Wheeler seeks attention. Often mentioned in the same breath as Matt Harvey due to their similar age and potential, Wheeler is everything his teammate is not. Where Harvey is serious, Wheeler is mellow. Where Harvey is fiery, Wheeler is chill.</p><p>Though this spring marks his first in a Major League camp, Wheeler shrugs when asked about his locker assignment between Harvey and two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana.</p><p>"Good all-around guys," Wheeler said, as if they were his childhood friends.</p><p>When his brother texted him on the first day of Spring Training, wondering how it felt "to be around all the big dogs," Wheeler replied that "it ain't no different."</p><p>"That's not temporary, that's not false," Adam Wheeler said. "That's just the way he is. We pounded in his head to be humble -- no matter what happens, be humble. My family is like that. We don't like all the attention, I guess. I'm not sure why."</p><p>At the least, Wh
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  • 2/20/13
  • stealy56
I feel the team will be at least 90 - 72 I think the pitching is going to surprise the heck out of alot of people
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  • 2/20/13
  • Deadtrek

Should I quote your 90 win prediction in Sept?

Not bad only 3 IF's needed.

I would add

If Marcum doesn't go on the DL (or traded )
If Santana doesn't go on the DL ( or traded )
If Duda doesn't cost us any games in the OF ( was it you that called him a water buffalo in the OF last year or one of ur friends? - then again same difference. )

Add a few more "ifs" -- and you might be right.

Note: No insults for you or name calling-- try it some time. It would shock a lot of people here.

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  • 2/21/13
  • Deadtrek
I knew you couldn't. Bet i was not the only one.
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Message 548279.37 was deleted
  • 2/21/13
  • Deadtrek
Nope , once again -- this is my only id i ever had.. Read your post that you had about only had 2- using the name JIM in both. I believed it.
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  • 2/21/13
  • metsheart
"If Marcum doesn't go on the DL (or traded )"


I project Marcum for 8 wins (had 7 last yr in only 21 GS). You think he can't at least match last yr's wins?
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"If Santana doesn't go on the DL ( or traded )"


I project Santana for 7 wins (same as last yr in 21 GS). Santana's last 5 starts in 2012 had 15.63 ERA. Went on 15 day DL July 21st. Then couple more bad starts before being shut down for the season. So if Johan gives Mets about 20 GS before being traded (or on DL) you think he can't win at least 7 gms?
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"If Duda doesn't cost us any games in the OF"



Duda's defense leaves a lot to be desired for sure. But at least he'll be in LF now which he played more of in the minors than RF (and was reportedly better in LF). And other 2 OF positions will have good defense w/ Kirk/ Cowgill in CF & Baxter/ Brown in RF.

But even if Duda's defense costs Mets same # of gms he did last yr overall OF improvement should offset that.
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Will Mets have 90 wins? Could be. Won't take THAT much improvement in OF & BP to make that happen. Just have to go from AWFUL in 2012 to AVERAGE in 2013.

But I don't see how Mets can finish under .500 again. UNLESS they have similar catastrophic pitching injuries as last yr (3 of 5 SPs & most reliable reliever out for 1/2 season or more).
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  • 2/21/13
  • Deadtrek

Totally valid points however if the GM of the team says:

"what outfield?" ( Sure bet he regrets that statement )
and just last week was quoted as saying the BP , makes him "uneasy"

I don't see that having any chance of being average.

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  • 2/21/13
  • metsheart
So a joke & flippant comment negates improving from AWFUL to AVERAGE?
  • Reply to this Message
  • 2/21/13
  • Deadtrek
IMHO ,, pretty much.
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  • 2/21/13
  • metsheart
Then reality doesn't count for anything in your world.
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  • 2/21/13
  • Deadtrek
Lets just wait to see what this years record is -- shall we?
  • Reply to this Message
  • 2/21/13
  • metsheart
We shall. And we'll see if OF is better than last yr -- which you're saying it WON'T be.

My predictions for 2013 record (at least around .500) are based primarily around PITCHING. If Mets have similar catastrophic pitching injuries as last yr (3 of 5 SPs & most reliable reliever out for 1/2 season or more) then all bets are off for Mets to have better 2013 record than 2012.
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  • 2/21/13
  • Deadtrek
Mine is 71 wins based on outfield and bullpen
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  • 2/21/13
  • metsheart
Just so I'm clear on your prediction --

You think Mets OF will produce LESS RBIs than last yr?

You think Mets BP will have LESS than 16 wins (what they had last yr)?
  • Reply to this Message
  • 2/21/13
  • Deadtrek

Yes , I do for the outfield , and I think the Met bullpen will blow a lot more games this year.

And if that happens team moral will be in the toilet. Hard to hit when that happens.

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  • 2/21/13
  • metsheart
Besides just sheer opinion -- do you have any actual basis for those beliefs?
  • Reply to this Message
  • 2/22/13
  • danthemetfan

Staying on topic of just good ol' Mets News. From the Post and mike puma:

PORT ST. LUCIE — Zack Wheeler is a big name in Mets camp, but until yesterday many of his potential future teammates had never seen him throw a pitch.

It didn’t take long into Wheeler’s 30-pitch live batting practice against Justin Turner, Marlon Byrd and John Buck for the Mets to understand why there is so much buzz surrounding the 22-year-old righty.

“It’s not just him looking like a big leaguer, it’s him looking like a No. 1,” the veteran outfielder Byrd said after batting against Wheeler.

Wheeler dazzled with his slider and curveball, but mostly his 98-mph heat that seems to accelerate just before it reaches the batter. Buck eventually poked a grounder through the infield, but Wheeler otherwise avoided anything close to decent contact.

“That’s the first time I’ve seen him throw in person and he’s got some late life on his fastball,” Turner said. “It kind of jumps on you, and we’re talking the late explosion that [Stephen] Strasburg has on his fastball. I was impressed.”

“It’s a blinky,” Byrd said. “You see it, lose it and then see it at the last second, which makes his fastball, his slider, even tougher to hit. He’s going to be a good one.”

Wheeler, who is slated to begin the season at Triple-A Las Vegas, will be the Mets’ main attraction of spring training. The team’s other phenom, Matt Harvey, is already assured a spot in the rotation after dazzling for the Mets in the final two months of last season.

Though Wheeler has been told he isn’t competing for a spot on the Opening Day roster — Harvey, Niese, Johan Santana, Dillon Gee and Shaun Marcum have those jobs — he’s taking the approach anything still can happen.

“I think you’ve got to go in looking as if you’re going to make the ball club,” Wheeler said. “If you don’t, you’re going to be happy with mediocre. You’ve got to go in prepared — that’s what I trained for this offseason — and I’m looking to go in there and compete and make some decisions hard.”

Harvey came to camp last year determined to make the team and was told by manager Terry Collins early in spring training it wouldn’t happen. Harvey eventually arrived to the Mets in late July. The manager says he didn’t even wait for spring training to start this time to inform Wheeler of the organization’s decision to have him start the season at Triple-A.

“He’s the real deal, there is no doubt,” Collins said. “There’s a tremendous light at the end of the tunnel here.”

Wheeler said watching Harvey succeed after arriving in July last season might make it easier for him to stomach beginning the season in the minor leagues.

“You saw what he did, worked his way up after a little bit of time in the minors, and I think that’s the plan they want for me, spend a little time in Triple-A and hopefully get the call if I can stay healthy,” Wheeler said. “That’s fine with me, but I would rather be up there with the team at the beginning. Just whatever works out.”

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