Mets' Wheeler Flashes Frontline Potential In Double-A





Best Player: Heading into the season, the great Mets prospect debate focused on a pair of hard-throwing righthanders, each selected in the top seven picks of his draft and each of whom had zoomed through the low minors. While 23-year-old Matt Harvey had been serviceable with Triple-A Buffalo this season (3.69 ERA in 16 starts), Zack Wheeler, one year younger, had electrified the Double-A Eastern League.

Through 13 starts for Binghamton, Wheeler went 7-3, 2.29 with 76 strikeouts in 79 innings. Opponents hit just .188 against him. Though Wheeler's fastball command can be spotty, he appears long past his wild-man days in the Giants system, and despite occasional inconsistency he had flashed front-of-the-rotation potential.

Biggest Leap Forward: Righthander Collin McHugh earned praise—and a promotion to Triple-A—for his strong performance with Binghamton (2.41 ERA in 12 starts), but the organization was equally impressed with the development of Wilfredo Tovar, a 20-year-old shortstop from Venezuela who reached Double-A in late June.

The Mets always have held Tovar's defensive work in high regard, and they even discussed calling him up to New York after an onslaught of injuries decimated the middle-infield corps. Mets officials raved about Tovar's work during instructional league, and he continued to show strong plate presence with high Class A St. Lucie, batting .284/.377/.385 in 218 at-bats.

Biggest Disappointment: Triple-A righty Jeurys Familia's loss of control is concerning, and so is St. Lucie outfielder Cesar Puello's lack of power, but Binghamton second baseman Reese Havens, one of the team's first-round picks in 2008, earns this dubious honor. For years, Havens tantalized with his ability but tormented with his inability to stay healthy.

Havens followed that path early in 2012 before flipping the script in May. An upper-back strain kept the 25-year-old off the field until the end of April, but despite a first at-bat home run, his production tailed off dramatically. Through 170 at-bats Havens was batting .206/.340/.335 with five homers in his third crack at Double-A.

METAMORPHOSES

• In addition to Tovar, the Mets promoted three others to Double-A before the end of June: third baseman Wilmer Flores, catcher Francisco Pena and righthander Cory Mazzoni, a second-round pick last year.

• New York remains committed to developing Triple-A righty Jeurys Familia as a starter, despite a lofty rate of 6.2 walks per nine innings (through 16 starts). Many scouts see Familia's future in the bullpen, however.