Zack Wheeler is blossoming into an ace right before our eyes

Philadelphia Phillies Zack Wheeler
TAMPA, FL – MARCH 07: Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) delivers a pitch during the MLB Spring Training game between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees on March 7, 2021 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)

A few years ago, Zack Wheeler fell behind the shadow of the Met’s pitchers in front of him. Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and, yes, Matt Harvey all flashed ace potential. All things considered, Wheeler was a number 3 pitcher in a starting rotation that could flash number 2 potential.

As a pitcher with a 98 MPH fastball and a solid slider, the Phillies saw more than that. During the 2019 offseason, they paid him for that said potential. The contract, now in year 2, gave $118 million to Wheeler over 5 years: an average of $23.6 million per year.

That potential is now paying off.

On Thursday, Zack Wheeler threw his first complete-game shutout since 2014 against the Milwaukee Brewers. He allowed a single hit through 8 innings, recorded 8 strikeouts, and walked absolutely no one.

Wheeler has pitched into the 9th inning twice this season. Do you know who else pitched deep into games? Aces. In fact, he currently leads all National League pitchers with 47.1 IP. Trevor Bauer is the closest with 44.1 IP.

Wheeler is starting to show his ace potential and it didn’t just happen overnight. Wheeler flashed that potential in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. He had a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts with the lowest home run rate in the National League. Oh, and he got a vote for the NL Cy Young award.

Through 7 starts in 2021, Wheeler has a 2.83 ERA with a career-high 9.3 K/9. He’s also not allowing baserunners as he has a 0.965 WHIP. His fielding independent pitching stat helps him confirm that this isn’t a fluke as it’s only 3.02.

His peripherals are solid as well. Wheeler sits in or over the 75th percentile in Barrel % (77), HardHit % (79), and Avg Exit Velocity (80). Naturally, his fastball sits in the 96th percentile, averaging 97.3 MPH.

There’s still a long way to go, but Zack Wheeler is rewarding Joe Girardi’s confidence in him through some stellar play. Inning after inning, Wheeler is proving that he belongs at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire