Such is the way of the Blame Beltran meme. A chance encounter between two players, at opposite ends of their careers, once traded for each other, ends in injury. Wheeler pays respect to the mighty Beltran and, seven minutes later, comes out of his start with a strained oblique. Touching Carlos Beltran leaves him worse for wear… coincidently, of course. OF COURSE.

Not a coincidence: all the excitement surrounding the Mets young right-hander. Between Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, Mets fans actually have something to look forward to in this post-Dickey way.

Zack Wheeler made his first spring appearance on the weekend, wherein he pitched quite well once he calmed down, throwing two scoreless innings against the Nats on Saturday. On the hill was Stephen Strasburg, who threw almost exclusively fastballs in his first appearance since his September shutdown.

You may remember Stephen Strasburg as one of the finest pitchers in the land, best known for his radar-gun destroying fastball and eye-popping change and curve, both of which move as if controlled remotely by a sadistic tween.

Stephen Strasburg sported the highest average pitch velocity, among the highest swing-and-miss rates and the lowest in-play rates. Quite simply, he has among the best stuff in all of baseball. It was that stuff that allowed scouts to speculate that he could walk right off a college field and into the Majors. The kind of stuff that netted him $20MM of guaranteed money after the Nats selected him first overall.

Yet the Mets and their scouts believe Zack Wheeler’s stuff might be just as good.

Mets pitching coach noted some of the physical similarities such as “[b]ody type. The free, loose arm. Everything is effortless. The great extension.” before getting into the good stuff in Adam Rubin’s ESPN New York report:

“We have an unbelievable new program called PitchTrack, where we put him side by side with Strasburg,” Warthen explained. “According to the PitchTrack, his stuff was better than Strasburg the other night.

“It measures where you release the ball, from what height, how far on the rubber on one side or the other, how far you get out on the extension side, the depth of the pitch, whether the two-seam has a sixth-inch depth, a slider has a 12-inch break. It measures everything.”

Very, very interesting. It bares noting that Stephen Strasburg made a conscious decision to alter his stuff this year, eschewing showy sideways motion in favor of more depth on his pitches, his change up and two-seamer in particular.

But Zack Wheeler is one of the best prospects in baseball for a reason. He has the stuff that makes pitching coaches swoon and opposing players cook up mystery ailments. But better than Strasburg? Once the pitch f/x systems of the world get hold of him, it will be easier to see in black and white. But for now, all the glowing scouting reports will suffice to feed the beast of hype and expectation surrounding the Mets top prospect.

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