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Wheeler ends season atop Mets' prospect list

Wheeler ends season atop Mets' prospect list

Wheeler ends season atop Mets' prospect list
At the start of the 2011 season, MLB.com unveiled Top 10 prospect lists for all 30 Major League organizations on Prospect Watch. Over the course of the season, those lists changed due to graduations to the big leagues, trades and performances. With the season completed, MLB.com will review how the prospects on those lists fared in 2011.

Getting traded as a Minor Leaguer is tough enough. Add in being dealt straight up for an All-Star and it would be easy to understand if a young player had difficulty making the adjustment and dealing with expectations.

Not so for Zack Wheeler, the young right-hander who was the Mets' return from San Francisco for Carlos Beltran before the non-waiver Trade Deadline in July. The 2009 first-round Draft pick got his bearings fairly quickly, putting up a 2.00 ERA over six starts for St. Lucie in the Florida State League following the trade.

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"I feel like I handled everything pretty well," Wheeler said. "It kind of caught me by surprise. I knew it might be coming, but when you get traded, it's still a surprise.

"I think it gives me a better opportunity. Everybody welcomed me over here. They just stood back and observed me. I just pitched like I normally would."

Organizational Reviews

Just prior to the trade, Wheeler made an adjustment to his delivery, actually going back in time and using his mechanics from high school. That seemed to click, as Wheeler's walk rate went down while his strikeout rate stayed up.

"Especially when you're traded one-for-one for an All-Star and into a market like New York, that's an awful lot of attention," Mets vice president of player development and amateur scouting Paul DePodesta said. "A camera crew went to film his first bullpen. Given that attention and the switching of organizations, I thought he did a tremendous job. He showed all the stuff that made him a top pick. He was up to 99 mph, showed a curve and slider and did a good job throwing strikes. We were very, very pleased."

So is Wheeler when he thinks about what lies ahead in his new organization. As bittersweet as it might be to be dealt by the team that drafted you, knowing a team thought enough of him to get him straight up for Beltran was a definite boost to the ego.

"I got traded for Carlos Beltran just one-for-one," Wheeler said. "The Mets had a lot of offers out there, but they wanted me. That makes me want it even more, that they wanted me that bad. I want to help out."

It looks like he'll be able to do that with a larger arsenal than people realize. DePodesta mentioned being impressed with Wheeler's two breaking balls. That's a relatively new development for the right-hander, who admitted he hadn't been able to ever throw a curve for a strike until recently. Now Wheeler has four pitches -- he's got a changeup as well -- to choose from, and as long as he continues to refine his command, this could end up looking like a very good trade for the Mets.

"A lot of people haven't seen my curve and slider," Wheeler said. "They still think I have the old slurve. I'm working with [the curve], trying to figure out when to throw it. I'm just fine-tuning everything, trying to make better pitches in certain counts. I feel good about the coming year."

Top 10 review

The Mets are trying to take the whole "You can never have enough pitching" thing seriously these days.

It's not that the Mets' Top 10 at the end of the season was too pitching-heavy. In fact, seven of the top 10 are position players. But the top three are all high-end arms, giving New York a lot of hope for a future rotation.

That starts with Wheeler and 2010 first-round pick Matt Harvey, who made it to Double-A in his first full season. No. 3 prospect Jeurys Familia also had a fantastic 2011 campaign, spending most of the year in Double-A at age 21. Throw in Jennry Mejia, no longer a prospect but still a very young pitcher who was throwing well before an injury, and the Mets have the potential for something special.

"We've been at this long enough and know we're probably not going to go 4-for-4," DePodesta said. "That's just the reality we deal with in this game. But we are getting to the point now, those are four pretty good young arms with significant upside.

"We're increasing the size of the basket of players. If we have enough of them, if we get to critical mass, some of them are going to be what we think they are going to be. Some may even exceed those expectations. I think we're making strides."

And there's more on the way. A number of young Latin American pitchers came to the United States this summer, and the Mets picked up a bunch of arms in the Draft, adding depth to a system that sorely needed it.

"You're looking at that basket of players, in this case pitchers, it's easy to get excited," DePodesta said. "You always like your own guys. We're excited about the group, and I'm excited to see how it plays out and which guys really rise up and grab the opportunity that's in front of them."

Mets' top 10 prospects
A look at how the Mets' Top 10 Prospects list looked at the beginning and end of the 2011 season:
No. Preseason Postseason
1. Wilmer Flores, SS Zack Wheeler, RHP
2. Matt Harvey, RHP Harvey
3. Cesar Puello, OF Familia
4. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF Flores
5. Lucas Duda, OF/1B Nieuwenhuis
6. Reese Havens, 2B Vaughn
7. Cory Vaughn, OF Puello
8. Jeurys Familia, RHP Valdespin
9. Jordany Valdespin, SS Havens
10. Juan Urbina, RHP Jefry Marte
Players in bold were removed from the list after reaching the rookie eligibility threshold.
Organizational Players of the Year

MLB.com's Preseason Picks

Cory Vaughn, OF: It was predicted that Vaughn would be among the system's leaders in homers and RBIs while reaching double-digits in steals. He didn't quite get there -- he did finish with 10 steals -- but he did earn a promotion midseason.

Matt Harvey, RHP: The hope was that Harvey would earn a bump from St. Lucie to Binghamton during the year, a prediction that came to fruition, while leading the organization in strikeouts. Two-for-two for the right-hander in his first season of pro ball.

MLB.com's Postseason Selections

Josh Satin, 2B: Satin began the season in Double-A and finished it in the big leagues, finishing second in the system with his .323 average while hitting 12 homers and driving in 76 (good for fifth) along the way.

Harvey: Along with Harvey's 156 K's in 135 2/3 innings, the 2010 first-rounder also topped the system with 13 wins and finished third in the organization with his 3.32 ERA.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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