Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Wheeler wins debut; Mets acquire Young
By Eric Karabell
Wow, Tuesday was a big day for the New York Mets. After all, how else can one describe the emotion that comes with trading for outfielder Eric Young Jr.?
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images Zack Wheeler pitched six shutout innings against the Braves in his big league debut.
On the field, the Mets swept a doubleheader from the first-place Atlanta Braves, and did so with the 1-2 punch of right-handers Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler on display. Harvey has been sensational all season, and on Tuesday, he fanned 13 Braves over seven innings for his sixth win in seven decisions. It would certainly be fun if Harvey, 24, starts for the NL in the All-Star game next month in his home ballpark of Citi Field. Harvey was sold high in two of my leagues this week, which is wise if one can procure top offensive help. However, he’s not really the definition of a sell-high pitcher, despite being 13th on the Player Rater, since there’s really no clear sign of regression coming. If I were to re-rank today, Harvey would be among my top 10 starting pitchers.
As for Wheeler, his much-awaited big-league debut was a success, as he overcame early command issues to toss six shutout innings and earn the win. Wheeler walked five and struck out seven, the first pitcher to combine those numbers with nary a run allowed in his debut since Cole Hamels in 2006. Wheeler was sent back to the minors after the game, but is scheduled for two starts next week, at the Chicago White Sox and versus the Washington Nationals. Like Harvey, Wheeler is going to miss plenty of bats, but there’s no guarantee he’ll have the same early success of his teammate. Still, Mets fans have to be excited, as this is merely the second duo in MLB history, each 24 or younger, to start and win on the same day while totaling at least 20 strikeouts.
Expectations for Wheeler should be held in check; as colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft noted Tuesday, many young pitchers are facing potential innings cap issues that could halt their -- and your -- seasons prematurely. While Wheeler does have a clear path to a rotation spot, the Mets aren’t going to risk his future with tack-on September issues. Projecting 15 starts from this point on might be aggressive, but an ERA in the low- to mid-3s and a strikeout per inning is not.
By the way, the Young acquisition from the Colorado Rockies for minor league pitcher Collin McHugh shouldn’t be completely overlooked; the Mets, despite Marlon Byrd's heroics power-wise, feature the worst outfield in baseball. Young, 28, is no panacea for the future, as he’s proven to be inconsistent at the plate and weak defensively -- he shouldn’t be anywhere near second base -- but he’s a major stolen base threat, likely leadoff option, and most importantly, he’s going to play. If you need cheap stolen bases, Young should provide them. It’s the rare time a hitter leaving the friendly confines of Coors Field actually sees his value rise.
Box score bits (NL): There were few bright spots in Atlanta’s lost day, as the Braves scored four runs in two games and placed the majors’ top rookie power option on the disabled list. Evan Gattis has a strained right oblique. Fantasy owners were realizing that he was trending poorly anyways, no longer a top-15 catcher (only two hits in June, though each were home runs), and he surely should be dropped in 10- and 12-team one-catcher leagues. … Arizona Diamondbacks disappointment Martin Prado smacked a two-run homer Tuesday, and there’s every indication even better times are ahead, thanks to a low BABIP. The guy is a career .290 hitter. Buy low. … San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro had two hits Tuesday, proving he can play through an injured finger. If so, he remains worth owning for his batting average even in shallow leagues. … Remember when many wanted to give up on Giants right-hander Matt Cain? His 10-strikeout, 2-run outing Tuesday continued his rejuvenation. His season WHIP is down to 1.13. … Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard stroked a stand-up triple Tuesday, though from his gait it was clear that knee woes are an ongoing issue. It’s really not a good time to buy low on Howard, for health and performance reasons.
Box score bits (AL):Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Wil Myers made his long-awaited debut Tuesday, hitting a single in seven at-bats in double-header losses to the Boston Red Sox. Myers was certainly aggressive in his at-bats, seeing a total of 21 pitches. There’s plenty of good to come, but don’t be surprised if he struggles the first few weeks. Yasiel Puig notwithstanding, it’s the new starting pitchers that tend to have instant success. … Cleveland Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall is back from Triple-A Columbus, where he hit .390 with power over four weeks, though he was hitless in three at-bats for the Tribe Tuesday. Is Chisenhall merely a 4-A player? It’s too early to give up on a potential 20-home run hitter. … Meanwhile, Indians closer Chris Perez did not enjoy his rehab outing for Double-A Akron Tuesday, allowing three home runs and five runs in his one inning of work. Vinnie Pestano, who earned his second save for the Indians, should get another week of closing, at least. … Oakland Athletics right-hander Jarrod Parker continued his fine work, beating the Texas Rangers with seven innings of two-run ball. Parker has eight consecutive quality starts, and he’s safe to use in any ballpark. … The Seattle Mariners welcomed back first baseman Justin Smoak (quad) from the disabled list Tuesday, and he homered in four at-bats. Still, there’s little reason to believe Smoak can hit enough for 10- or 12-team formats. After all, he is a career .225 hitter. … Josh Hamilton hit into three double plays by the fifth inning Tuesday night and finished 0-for-5. I’m still not buying low on Hamilton, but if he continues to bat second in the lineup, he might harm Mike Trout’s potential for runs scored. Trout was erased on the bases each time!