Wheeler Living Up To The Hype

BINGHAMTON, NY - Zack Wheeler, a top pitching prospect from Georgia, is making the most of his time in Binghamton. Promoted to Double-A this season, the 22 year old has had an extremely impressive first half, living up to the hype surrounding him.

With the first half of the season now in the books, the Eastern League All-Star has put up some outstanding numbers, leading the Eastern League with a 1.06 WHIP and 95 strikeouts with a 2.39 ERA. And his work is not going unnoticed, as pitching coach Glen Abbott sings his praises.

"I thought he did an excellent job the first half," Abbot said. "Since Spring Training he's gotten better and he's been very consistent the whole half. He's pitching with a lot of confidence and his command of his pitches is getting better."

Command had been one of Wheeler's issues early on, both with his fastball and with his offspeed pitches, but as of late he seems to be able to control them all, and in addition to his slider and curveball, manager Pedro Lopez mentions that he also has a changeup in the works.

"He's done a good job with his changeup," Lopez said. "He's got a new grip that he's been working on for a while now, and he's doing a good job.

"I know the changeup is coming in slowly, but at least it's got the makings of being a good one. I think in order for him to be successful at the Major League level he's gonna need that changeup."

This season has been one of hard work and development for Wheeler as he continues to improve upon his already noteworthy pitching repertoire. Thus far Wheeler owns a 9-4 record through 16 starts, and he is quick to acknowledge that he has had both good outings and bad.

"I think my first half went well" he said, "there were some ups and downs, there's always times when you've got to make adjustments, and I think I went through that phase when I was doing somewhat good at the beginning, then I started doing really good, then right before the all-star break I had about three games or so that I sort of dropped down and there's just time in the bullpen that you've got to spend working on stuff and I fixed a few things and started coming around again."

The ups and downs were present in Wheeler's last four starts. In the first two the hurler posted a 7.24 ERA and gave up a total of eleven earned runs. But in the latter two, he had a complete turnaround, giving up just one run and culminating in his most recent start, a complete game shutout.

"Before I had the really good starts and I just felt good," Wheeler said. "And those past two starts I was just trying to do a little too much, trying to make my fastball faster, which isn't really possible, and trying to do too much with my mechanics, so I just had to take a step back and look at what I was doing and slow myself down.

"My front shoulder was flying open and I was leaving the ball up, and then I just kept my front shoulder closed and it allowed me to get behind the ball and just throw it downhill at the bottom of the zone."

As mentioned, Wheeler threw a complete game shut-out on July 14th, an outing in which he struck out seven and gave up just six hits, while throwing only 106 pitches, 75 of which were strikes.

"I was getting ahead of hitters, just going right at them," the righty said of his performance. "I was able to throw my offspeed pitches for strikes, and when you do that, you keep your pitch count down and you're able to go a bit deeper into the games and be more efficient."

Abbott was impressed by what he saw from Wheeler in that game, noting especially his command and efficiency.

"He was in total control the whole game," the coach said, "and I think seventeen of the twenty-nine or thirty batters he faced, they put it in play in three pitches or less, which is something we try to stress, putting them away early, and he was ahead in the count of everybody, and he finished very strong.

"I can't say enough about him, his fastball was strong from the first inning through the ninth inning and the slider and curveball was very consistent, and he's just getting better and better with it every time."

Though Wheeler has certainly dazzled in Binghamton, he still has some work to put in before he is ready for the Major League. He has made strides in his fastball command as well as his ability to throw his offsped pitches for strikes, but both Abbot and Lopez think that he still needs to fine-tune his offspeed stuff.

"He's just got to get more consistent with his secondary pitches," Abbot said, "his slider and his curveball, and he's working with the change and it's getting better but there's still some things he has to get in place.

"He's got his fastball and he throws strikes and he does well with that, but he has to get more consistent with the secondary pitches and get more consistency in the zone."

With the talk of Triple-A ace Matt Harvey possibly being promoted, it is more than likely that we will see Wheeler take the next step towards becoming a New York Met, and he is ready to keep working on his pitches and being the best he can be.

"I feel more comfortable out there throwing strikes and being able to throw my offspeed pitches for strikes too," he concluded. "I just want to keep doing the same thing, just getting ahead of guys, working early in the count, throwing strikes, keeping the ball down, and just working hard day in and day out."

\r\n \r\n\r\nWith the first half of the season now in the books, the Eastern League All-Star has put up some outstanding numbers, leading the Eastern League with a 1.06 WHIP and 95 strikeouts with a 2.39 ERA. And his work is not going unnoticed, as pitching coach Glen Abbott sings his praises.
\r\n
\r\n\"I thought he did an excellent job the first half,\" Abbot said. \"Since Spring Training he's gotten better and he's been very consistent the whole half. He's pitching with a lot of confidence and his command of his pitches is getting better.\"
\r\n
\r\nCommand had been one of Wheeler's issues early on, both with his fastball and with his offspeed pitches, but as of late he seems to be able to control them all, and in addition to his slider and curveball, manager Pedro Lopez mentions that he also has a changeup in the works.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's done a good job with his changeup,\" Lopez said. \"He's got a new grip that he's been working on for a while now, and he's doing a good job.
\r\n
\r\n\"I know the changeup is coming in slowly, but at least it's got the makings of being a good one. I think in order for him to be successful at the Major League level he's gonna need that changeup.\"
\r\n
\r\nThis season has been one of hard work and development for Wheeler as he continues to improve upon his already noteworthy pitching repertoire. Thus far Wheeler owns a 9-4 record through 16 starts, and he is quick to acknowledge that he has had both good outings and bad.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think my first half went well\" he said, \"there were some ups and downs, there's always times when you've got to make adjustments, and I think I went through that phase when I was doing somewhat good at the beginning, then I started doing really good, then right before the all-star break I had about three games or so that I sort of dropped down and there's just time in the bullpen that you've got to spend working on stuff and I fixed a few things and started coming around again.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe ups and downs were present in Wheeler's last four starts. In the first two the hurler posted a 7.24 ERA and gave up a total of eleven earned runs. But in the latter two, he had a complete turnaround, giving up just one run and culminating in his most recent start, a complete game shutout.
\r\n
\r\n\"Before I had the really good starts and I just felt good,\" Wheeler said. \"And those past two starts I was just trying to do a little too much, trying to make my fastball faster, which isn't really possible, and trying to do too much with my mechanics, so I just had to take a step back and look at what I was doing and slow myself down.
\r\n
\r\n\"My front shoulder was flying open and I was leaving the ball up, and then I just kept my front shoulder closed and it allowed me to get behind the ball and just throw it downhill at the bottom of the zone.\"
\r\n
\r\nAs mentioned, Wheeler threw a complete game shut-out on July 14th, an outing in which he struck out seven and gave up just six hits, while throwing only 106 pitches, 75 of which were strikes.
\r\n
\r\n\"I was getting ahead of hitters, just going right at them,\" the righty said of his performance. \"I was able to throw my offspeed pitches for strikes, and when you do that, you keep your pitch count down and you're able to go a bit deeper into the games and be more efficient.\"
\r\n
\r\nAbbott was impressed by what he saw from Wheeler in that game, noting especially his command and efficiency.
\r\n
\r\n\"He was in total control the whole game,\" the coach said, \"and I think seventeen of the twenty-nine or thirty batters he faced, they put it in play in three pitches or less, which is something we try to stress, putting them away early, and he was ahead in the count of everybody, and he finished very strong.
\r\n
\r\n\"I can't say enough about him, his fastball was strong from the first inning through the ninth inning and the slider and curveball was very consistent, and he's just getting better and better with it every time.\"
\r\n
\r\nThough Wheeler has certainly dazzled in Binghamton, he still has some work to put in before he is ready for the Major League. He has made strides in his fastball command as well as his ability to throw his offsped pitches for strikes, but both Abbot and Lopez think that he still needs to fine-tune his offspeed stuff.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's just got to get more consistent with his secondary pitches,\" Abbot said, \"his slider and his curveball, and he's working with the change and it's getting better but there's still some things he has to get in place.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's got his fastball and he throws strikes and he does well with that, but he has to get more consistent with the secondary pitches and get more consistency in the zone.\"
\r\n
\r\nWith the talk of Triple-A ace Matt Harvey possibly being promoted, it is more than likely that we will see Wheeler take the next step towards becoming a New York Met, and he is ready to keep working on his pitches and being the best he can be.
\r\n
\r\n\"I feel more comfortable out there throwing strikes and being able to throw my offspeed pitches for strikes too,\" he concluded. \"I just want to keep doing the same thing, just getting ahead of guys, working early in the count, throwing strikes, keeping the ball down, and just working hard day in and day out.\"
\r\n
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