During his tenure as San Francisco Giants general manager, Brian Sabean has never had a problem selecting a pitcher in the first round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
The 2009 version was no different as Sabean and his crew nabbed East Paulding High School right-hander Zack Wheeler from Dallas, Ga. with the sixth overall pick.
Not everybody is a Baseball America geek or follows Georgia high school baseball like they do the Giants, so who is Wheeler?
His résumé speaks for itself. As a senior at East Paulding, he went 9-0 with a 0.54 ERA which included a no-hitter in the first round of the Georgia state playoffs and a two-hit complete game in the quarterfinals where he struck out 15. His junior season wasn't too shabby either, going 8-2 with a 1.31 ERA and 127 strikeouts in just 64 1/3 innings.
A 6'4", 170-pound, 19-year-old right-hander, Wheeler will be yet another power arm that the Giants will be adding to their system after he is signed. He has excellent arm speed and, as you can see, a prototypical pitching frame that allows him to throw a power fastball that tops out at 96 MPH, but he usually sits it in the low 90s.
Because of a great makeup and incredibly high ceiling, Wheeler is arguably the top high school pitcher in a very pitching-heavy 2009 draft.
Along with a top-notch fastball, Wheeler throws a power curve or slurve, that goes between 74-78 MPH. He throws it differently to different hitters, throwing it with more sweeping movement to right-handed hitters. He also has the ability to throw it tighter to hit the inside corner for a called strike.
The biggest knock on Wheeler is that his command is inconsistent. With the movement that his breaking ball generates and his drop-and-drive motion, which sort of looks like Tim Hudson's, it doesn't consistently land in the strike zone.
The other knock on Wheeler is that he doesn't have much of a changeup, with it being called more of a batting practice fastball by some scouts. But because of his age and showing that he can have a feel for it, there's no reason to think that it can't develop into at least an average third pitch for him.
See "Lincecum, Tim" if you want to see a young pitcher who has developed a big-time changeup in a short period of time.
But with the kind of arm that he has, a lot of teams, including the Giants, were willing to take a serious look at what Wheeler could bring to the table.
And there certainly is potential and the word everybody loves to throw around no matter what draft, "upside." Wheeler has plenty of life on his fastball and if the Giants can get him to consistently throw his breaking ball and develop his changeup into something he can work off his big-time heater, then things should be looking awfully good.
Some will say that the Giants should've gone for a bat considering how the big league club is hitting and that certainly is true. But the problem with this year's draft is that after Dustin Ackley and Donovan Tate, there wasn't really a bat that was truly deserving of the No. 6 overall pick.
Many mock drafts had the Giants going with the best lefty high school pitcher in the draft, Tyler Matzek, but as the days leading up draft day progressed and many of the top high schoolers' signing bonus asking prices began to come out, the Giants started to be linked with Wheeler more often than not.
Signability isn't looking like it will be a problem with Wheeler, however. He had committed early to Kennesaw State, but with a signing bonus at or just above slot price, the Giants will probably see his signature on the dotted line.
"I'm just ready to go out and play now," Wheeler told the MLB Network after being drafted.
What else would you want to hear from him just minutes after hearing his name read?
He definitely won't take either spot currently filled by Madison Bumgarner or Tim Alderson in the Giants' prospect rankings, but the Giants have gotten themselves another top-notch high school arm that projects well for the future.
The Giants just keep stacking the organization with young gun pithers. The future is bright...in case you didn't already know that.
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