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Analyzing Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler

By Mike Silva ~ July 27th, 2011. Filed under: Mike Silva, New York Mets.

Although it’s not official the Mets should be acquiring San Francisco’s top pitching prospect, Zack Wheeler, for Carlos Beltran and approximately $4 million dollars in cash. You can’t criticize the deal from either side as both Sandy Alderson and Brian Sabean did what is necessary to better their organizations. Alderson had the best available bat in the marketplace and had to move him before he lost leverage, or Beltran sustained an injury. Sabean could have a dynasty on his hands and Beltran might be the missing piece to deliver a return trip to the World Series.

Experts believe Wheeler is an elite arm that will anchor a rotation, or at the very worst, be a #2. He joins Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, and the injured Jenrry Mejia as high upside, right handed power arms. The Mets rotation in 2013 could feature Jonathon Niese and the four kids. It also could give the Mets flexibility and groom Mejia as a future closer.

Drafted in the first round in 2009, the 21 year old Wheeler is a hard thrower (91-94 mph) and has a curveball (72 mph) that’s described as elite. He does throw a changeup (82 mph), but it’s currently considered below average.  He still is working on his command, which explains the obscene walk rate (5.2 per nine) during his first two pro seasons. Despite the high walk rate, Wheeler is 10-8 with a 3.99 ERA in 29 career MILB starts. He’s struck out more than a batter per inning as well.

The red flag with Wheeler is his mechanics. First, take a look at this picture from high school:

Anytime you deliver the ball with your palm down and front foot planted it means you’re late. That puts a tremendous amount of strain on the arm, and will eventually lead to trouble. I spoke to our resident scout, Chuck Johnson, earlier and he told me that “he (Wheeler) was a little funky when he was drafted, but the Giants did a good job of smoothing him out. His ceiling is probably as a #2.”

Adam Foster of Project Prospect wrote this about Wheeler’s mechanics in May:

Wheeler has a big red flag in his mechanics, a timing problem. He doesn’t begin to turn his forearm over and get the ball into the driveline until after he plants his front foot, despite his long stride. This leads to halted lower body momentum and a lot of stress on his throwing arm. Ideally, a pitcher will generate energy with his core then bring his arm along for the ride. Though Wheeler looks balanced and his velocity appears easy, he doesn’t create an efficient chain of kinetic energy in his delivery. His arm is left to do a lot of the work.

Baseball America echoes Johnson’s report of improved mechanics by saying “his cracked nail (last season) was a blessing in disguise because it forced him to take time out to work on smoothing out his mechanics. He got on a more direct line to the plate and cut down the effort in his delivery, allowing him to command the bottom of the strike zone much better.”

Sandy Alderson set out to get a top prospect for Carlos Beltran, and he accomplished just that. Things couldn’t have gone any better for Alderson since spring training. I remember talking about Beltran to a Mets player in Port St. Lucie and he said he “would be surprised if he made it through half the season.” Beltran wasn’t running well and Terry Collins original plan was to play him about four days a week; never a day game after a night game.

Beltran not only played every day, but returned to his All Star offensive form. He’s been just as good offensively as his elite stretch as a Met (2006-2008). He is no longer physically able to play a Gold Glove caliber centerfield, but he is above average in the corner. If his health continues to improve I wouldn’t discount a return to center, perhaps on a part time basis. That’s for next year, as Beltran said recently he would like to remain in right field the rest of this season.

Is Wheeler a guarantee? Of course not, no prospect is. However, at this time last year the Mets had Jenrry Mejia recovering from the failed bullpen experiment, Jeurys Familia a mess in High-A, and Matt Harvey unsigned. With Beltran coming off serious knee surgery it was preposterous to think he could be traded for anyone, much less the Giants top pitching prospect.

The Giants were balking at giving up a top prospect, but the thought of Beltran in the middle of their order brought them to their senses. Give Sandy Alderson credit for maximizing what little leverage he had. Remember, Beltran and Scott Boras could dictate these trade talks due to his no trade clause. The fact the Giants can’t contractually offer him arbitration means they can’t recoup the lost prospect in next year’s draft when/if Beltran walks. Wheeler is by no means a guarantee, but I have been saying that Sandy Alderson should go for quality, not quantity, when dealing Beltran. He did exactly that. Although San Francisco lost an arm, they are the rare team that can deal a Zack Wheeler due to their pitching depth.

This is a rare trade where I can say its win/win for both sides.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
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