Down on the Farm: Drawing the line on prospects
Zack Wheeler is currently the most owned minor-league pitcher in Fantasy, ahead of Dan Straily , Trevor Bauer and Chris Archer , among others.
From a long-term perspective, that's completely understandable. Baseball America rated him the 11th-best prospect entering this year, with Dylan Bundy (who's visiting Dr. James Andrews because of elbow pain), Jose Fernandez (who's already in the big leagues), Shelby Miller (who's already in the big leagues) and Gerrit Cole (who's owned in 34 percent of leagues himself) the only starting pitchers ahead of him.
But at 42 percent, Wheeler's ownership covers more than just the dynasty leagues that would care about his long-term viability. At 42 percent, it extends even into some 10- and 12-team mixed leagues, where the emphasis is squarely on the now.
And the now for him is looking mighty tenuous.
In theory, he had a shot at winning a rotation spot this spring, which means in theory, he should be the first one up if something goes wrong.
But Shaun Marcum neck already went wrong, and the Mets opted to go with Aaron Laffey instead, which means either they don't want to take the chance of Wheeler earning Super Two status, bringing on arbitration a year sooner, or they don't think he's quite ready.
The former is a plausible enough explanation. So far in his two-plus years on the job, general manager Sandy Alderson has yet to delude himself into thinking his team is on the verge of contention. No one knows better than he does that the Mets, as they're currently projected to perform, risk losing more than they gain by promoting Wheeler prior to July.
Of course, even for non-contenders, when a top prospect has so thoroughly mastered the minor leagues that the only possible next step is a big-league promotion, then what may or may not happen to his salary two or three years down the road becomes an afterthought.
Which brings me to that other reason why Wheeler isn't already in the majors. If the Mets didn't think he was ready coming out of spring training, then what he's done so far in 2013 surely hasn't changed their minds.
After looking like a finished product in his six starts at Triple-A Buffalo late last year, Wheeler has a 4.91 ERA and 1.75 WHIP in four starts at the team's new Triple-A affiliate, Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League.
Now, the PCL is a hitter-friendly league -- so hitter-friendly that you could argue the rocky start is somewhat predictable -- but you can't blame it for Wheeler's sudden loss of command. His six walks over 4 1/3 innings last time out had manager Terry Collins quickly changing course after campaigning for Wheeler's promotion just days earlier.
And then came this line from a Mets official, as reported by the New York Post.
"If Zack Wheeler wants to be here, start throwing strikes. I don't want to hear about anything else. Throw strikes."
|Player Name||Own %|
|1.||Wil Myers , OF, Rays||78|
|2.||Jurickson Profar , 2B/SS, Rangers||53|
|3.||Oscar Taveras , OF, Cardinals||50|
|4.||Yasiel Puig , OF, Dodgers||44|
|5.||Zack Wheeler , SP, Mets||42|
|6.||Billy Hamilton , SS, Reds||40|
|7.||Dan Straily , SP, Athletics||39|
|8.||Dylan Bundy , SP, Orioles||38|
|9.||Travis d'Arnaud , C, Mets||36|
|10.||Gerrit Cole , SP, Pirates||34|
Seeing as I recommended rostering Jose Fernandez as soon as he came up and Tony Cingrani about a week before he came up, I'm not opposed to gambling on talent for talent's sake, particularly in shallower leagues, where only the most talented move the needle.
But where do you draw the line? Why not go ahead and stash Christian Yelich ? Not like anyone's standing in his way in Miami. Or why not Tyler Skaggs ? His path to the majors is just as clear as Wheeler's.
You know whose path is clearer? Straily, who already has an 11-strikeout game in the majors this year and is just a Brett Anderson or Bartolo Colon injury away. You know who else? Archer, who might be up with the next Roberto Hernandez meltdown.
Not to mention all the legit major-leaguers who are ripe for the taking on waivers right now, such as Jose Quintana , Patrick Corbin and Travis Wood . Or heck, even Drew Smyly , who hasn't quite overtaken Rick Porcello in Detroit. Any of them are worthier than Wheeler in short-term formats.
Maybe I'm wrong about Wheeler needing to win the Mets over again. Maybe his next great start earns him a promotion, and this column ends up being the only reason someone else beats you to him on the waiver wire.
Based on what his struggles say about the ground he still needs to cover, it wouldn't be the end of the world in a standard 12-team league, particularly if you can fall back on one of those other pitchers I mentioned.
When the Pirates didn't get the opportunity to draft the best player and bat -- Bryce Harper -- in the 2010 MLB draft, they opted to take the best pitcher available with the No. 2 selection -- Jameson Taillon , who is on track to join the major-league ranks within the next year or two.
The Pirates didn't make another selection until 50 picks later, but when their turn in the draft came up again they couldn't believe high school pitcher Stetson Allie was still on the board. The Pirates viewed Allie as another Taillon and were ecstatic he was still available at the start of the second round.
The scouting report on Allie was he had a live arm with a fastball that touched the high-90s, much like Taillon. The biggest knock against Allie, who was also a standout hitter and corner infielder, was his lack of command, but clearly the Pirates felt it was an issue Allie could potentially iron out as he progressed in his career.
Unfortunately, control continued to elude Allie, who walked more batters (37) than he struck out (20) in 17 career appearances (eight starts), prompting the Pirates to convert him to a position player before it was too late. Although, success wasn't immediate after Allie was converted to a corner infielder last season. He hit a disappointing .213 in rookie ball and it seemed Allie was in line to be another draft-day bust.
But as quickly as Allie's prospects declined, his rebirth has been just as swift. Allie is terrorizing pitchers in the South Atlantic League (low Class A) to the tune of a .704 slugging percentage and 1.150 OPS through 17 games for West Virginia this season. Allie has mashed five doubles, six home runs and knocked in 20 runs. He's also sporting a .380 average.
Perhaps the scouts were right all along. Allie had first-round potential. It just was as a hitter and not a pitcher.
In this week's Five on the Farm we highlight players similar to Allie who are off to promising starts in 2013 and could soon be surging up prospect lists.
Rafael De Paula
, SP, Yankees
, 1B, Twins
, SP, Red Sox
, OF, Astros
, SP, Astros