The San Francisco Giants made the biggest splash in the MLB Trade Deadline pool on Wednesday, when they acquired Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets. The talk all along was that the Mets were looking for a top prospect in return for Beltran, even if they had to acquire most of the money left on his deal. I, for one, was skeptical that any team would part with a top prospect for a Beltran rental. The Giants proved me wrong by sending the Zack Wheeler to the Mets in return for the coveted outfielder.
Zack Wheeler was the 6th overall pick of the Giants in the 2009 MLB Draft. He hovered around the 50s in Baseball America’s prospect rankings before last season and this season. Prior to the 2011 season, we ranked him the #67 prospect in baseball in our Top 100 Prospects list. In Baseball America’s Midseason Top 50, Wheeler checked in at #35, while we would now have Wheeler firmly in the top 50.
Wheeler’s climb up the rankings makes sense when you look at his numbers this year. There were two numbers that really stood out from Wheeler’s 2010 line: strikeouts and walks. Wheeler posted a 10.7 K/9 and 26.7 K% with Augusta of the Sally League. As with every prospect, it was important to see if Wheeler could maintain those types of rates as he moved up. In High-A ball, with San Jose of the California League, Wheeler has done just that. He currently has a 10.0 K/9 and a 25.5 K%. More importantly, Wheeler has started to take care of the walk problem that reared its head last season. His 14.5 BB% from 2010 is down to 12.2% in 2011. These are obviously good indicators going forward. Of course, that BB% needs to keep going down for Wheeler to be successful.
After not allowing a home run last year, Wheeler has allowed 7 this season. That is still a miniscule number, but with his GB% dropping from 63% to 51% and a HR/Air% at 6%, it’s something to watch. Also watch for Wheeler’s numbers to improve with his move to the Florida State League. That is a pitcher-friendly league and should be especially kind to Wheeler.
A look at the Mets farm system indicates that Wheeler is immediately one of the two top prospects in the system, with Matt Harvey being the other. After several trades and some top guys that just didn’t pan out, the Mets system is in need of top prospects. Even though Wheeler is not terribly close to the majors at this point, it is a great addition to the Mets farm system. If Wheeler’s command continues to improve and he makes progress with his secondary pitches, he is a guy that could end up as an elite prospect.
If you’re a Mets fan who wants to know more about Wheeler, or a Giants fan who just likes to torture yourself, make sure to check back here at Baseball Instinct for more on the new Giants righthander. Tomorrow we will have a very thorough Zack Wheeler Prospect Breakdown. Next week, we will be seeing Zack in person and will have video up for you on our YouTube page.