Zack Wheeler

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Zachary Harrison Wheeler

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Biographical Information[edit]

Zack Wheeler was a first-round draft pick in 2009. His brother Adam Wheeler pitched four seasons in the minors.

Wheeler was 9-0 with a 0.46 ERA as a high school senior, allowing 31 hits in 76 innings and striking out 149. Baseball America picked him as a first-team high school All-American and Gatorade named him the Georgia Player of the Year. The San Francisco Giants chose him with the sixth pick of the 2009 amateur draft, following Stephen Strasburg, Dustin Ackley, Donavan Tate, Tony Sanchez and Matt Hobgood and just ahead of Mike Minor and Mike Leake. He signed with scout Sean O'Connor for a $3.3 million signing bonus, the 5th-highest that year after picks 1-3 and #9 Jacob Turner. He entered 2010 as the #3 Giants prospect as per Baseball America.

Zack began his pro career with the 2010 Augusta GreenJackets, going 1-3 with a 5.06 ERA after 7 games. He had 33 strikeouts but 17 walks in 26 2/3 innings. He was a late addition to the US roster for the 2010 Futures Game. He pitched the fourth inning of the USA's 9-1 win. He entered with a 2-1 lead, replacing Zach Britton. Alex Liddi popped up then Carlos Peguero doubled. Wilkin Ramirez flew out and Wilin Rosario lined out. Mike Minor relieved Wheeler in the fifth. He finished the year 3-3 with a 3.99 ERA, 70 strikeouts and 38 walks in 58 2/3 IP. He was listed as the 12th-best South Atlantic League prospect by Baseball America (between Trevor May and Cesar Puello) and as #49 in all of the minors.

On July 27, 2011, the Giants sent Wheeler with cash considerations to the New York Mets to obtain All-Star CF Carlos Beltran. He split the season between the San Jose Giants and St. Lucie Mets, going 9-7 with a 3.52 ERA in 22 starts. He had 129 strikeouts in 115 innings, while allowing 100 hits. Baseball America ranked him as the #4 prospect in the California League (behind Tyler Skaggs, Jedd Gyorko and Gary Brown) and #55 in baseball. 2012 saw him pitch with the AA Binghamton Mets (19 games) and AAA Buffalo Bisons (6 games). He continued to do well, going a combined 12-8, 3.26, pitching 149 innings and striking out 148 against 59 walks. He tied Gonzalez Germen for the most wins by a Mets farmhand and led in strikeouts (13 ahead of Collin McHugh). He was 9th in the Eastern League in ERA. In the 2012 Futures Game, he replaced Alex Meyer with two outs in the 8th inning of a 17-5 rout for the US. He retired Jesus Aguilar in the 8th and Oswaldo Arcia in the 9th before being yanked in favor of Matt Barnes. Baseball America rated him as the second-best prospect in the Eastern League, one spot behind Manny Machado.

Heading into 2013, Wheeler was named #13 on Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list, and arrived in spring training as one of the most watched players for the Mets. After a couple of good outings in early games, he was bit by the injury bug, however, straining an oblique muscle while taking batting practice on February 27th, putting him on the shelf for an indefinite period. he did manage to pitch a few times before the end of spring training, and did well, but the Mets wanted him to start the year in the minors, in spite of clamor from the fans to have Wheeler in the Big Apple immediately. He went 4-2, 3.93 in 13 starts for the AAA Las Vegas 51s, striking out 73 in 62 2/3 innings. He got the long-anticipated call to the show in the second game of a doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves on June 18th. Young ace Matt Harvey started the first game on a day that was portrayed by reporters as a portent of the Mets' future; Harvey got things off on the right foot with a 4-3 win in the opener, and Zack followed with an excellent performance, giving up no runs on 4 hits while striking out 7 in 6 innings to be credited with the 6-1 win in the nitecap. He struck out the side in the 2nd inning and generally was as good as advertised, apart from some control issues manifested by five walks. On July 10th, he improved to 3-1 by defeating the team that drafted him, the Giants, 7-2, allowing just one run on three hits in 7 innings. He ended the year with a record of 7-5, 3.42 in 17 starts. In an even 100 innings, he struck out 84 opponents.

Zack had trouble getting into the win column at the start of 2014 as he was 2-7 after 14 starts. On June 19th, he recorded the first complete game of his major league career when he threw a 1-0, three-hit shutout over the Miami Marlins. He made 32 starts and pitched 185 1/3 innings that year, finishing with a record of 11-11, 3.54. Also impressive were his 187 strikeouts. The Mets were counting on him to be part of a very promising trio of young starters in Mets, alongside 2014 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey, returning from Tommy John surgery, but those plans went awry during spring training when Zack was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament and had to undergo the same surgery that had sidelined Harvey the previous season.

Wheeler did not pitch at all in 2015. He was expected to make a comeback in 2016 but suffered a setback and was limited to a single appearance with the Class A St. Lucie Mets. The Mets had learned their lesson by early 2017 and did not want to hold out false hope about Zack's ability to contribute that season, so they remained calm when they announced that the once-promising pitcher had felt some "tenderness" in a routine warm-up session as spring training got under way. His throwing program was put on pause once again. However, he was able to make the team's opening day roster and made his long-awaited return to the majors on April 7th. starting against the Miami Marlins. He allowed 5 runs in 4 innings and was charged with a 7-2 loss. He pitched better as the season progressed, winning his first game since 2014 on April 12th, when he defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-4. He showed flashes of his old self on May 9th when he allowed only 2 hits in 6 innings to the Giants in a 6-1 win. He continued to improve over the next couple of months, bringing his ERA down to 3.45 after a start on June 7th. He was 3-3 at that point, but was ineffective afterwards, going 0-4, 9.89 over his last six starts to end up at 3-7, 5.21. He did not pitch after a no-decision on July 25th.

Given his history injury, the Mets were once again prudent with Zack at the beginning of 2018, as he did not open the season with the team but was only activated in time to make his first start on April 11th against the Miami Marlins. He allowed a solo homer to Miguel Rojas in the 1st, but pretty much nothing after that and struck out 7 in 7 innings. He received credit for the win when the Mets rallied for 4 runs in the top of the 8th for a 4-1 victory. This marked the first time that the Mets' vaunted young rotation of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Wheeler, hyped since 2015, had ever completed a full turn. However, Harvey was soon gone, and injuries took their usual toll, while the Mets took a tumble in the standings. For his part, though, Wheeler found his rhythm in July and August when he went through a streak of 8 starts during which his record was 7-0. He finished the season at 12-7, 3.31 in 29 games, logging 182 1/3 innings and compiling 179 strikeouts in what was an excellent comeback season.

On April 23, 2019, he had a career night against the Philadelphia Phillies. Not only did he give up no runs in 7 innings whole striking out 11, he also hit a double and his first career homer to lead the Mets to a 9-0 win. He had a very solid overall even if the Mets failed to be much of a factor in the postseason race, going 11-8, 3.96 in 31 starts, with 195 strikeouts in 195 1/3 innings. Having now put together back-to-back solid - and fully healthy - seasons, he was much sought-after when he became a free agent at the end of the year. On December 4th, he signed a five-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies worth $118 million as the Phillies continued to spend lavishly in the hope of returning to the postseason. His first season with the Phillies in 2020 was shortened to 11 starts by the COVID-19 pandemic, but he pitched very well, going 4-2, 2.92. In 2021, he was even better, earning an All-Star berth for the first time after an excellent first half. On August 8th, the day that the Phillies honored Hall of Famer Roy Halladay by retiring his uniform number, he channeled some of the Doc's talents, pitching a complete-game two-hit shutout to defeat his former team, the Mets, 3-0. It was already his third complete game and second shutout of the season, and he was leading the National League in both categories.

He was named the National League Pitcher of the Month for May, 2022 after going 2-0, 1.65 in 5 starts with a 40/5 K/W ratio in 32 2/3 innings. Ironically, the award was announced on the same day as the Phillies fired manager Joe Girardi, on June 3rd, as his solid pitching had not been enough to give the team a winning record.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • NL All-Star (2021)
  • NL Innings Pitched Leader (2021)
  • NL Strikeouts Leader (2021)
  • NL Complete Games Leader (2021)
  • NL Shutouts Leader (2021)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (2021)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 1 (2021)


Further Reading[edit]

  • Paul Casella: "'Big-Game Wheels' having a postseason to remember: Wheeler adds to impressive 2022 playoffs numbers with six-plus innings in Game 5",, October 24, 2022. [1]
  • Thomas Harrigan: "Don't count out this ace in NL Cy Young race",, September 1, 2023. [2]
  • Todd Zolecki: "'Long road' leads Wheeler to first postseason start: Phillies right-hander to start Game 1 of NL Wild Card Series in rematch with Cardinals",, October 7, 2022. [3]

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