Minnesota Twins Free Agent Profile: Could Zack Wheeler be the ace the Twins need?

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PORT ST. LUCIE, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 21: Zack Wheeler #45 of the New York Mets poses for a photo on Photo Day at First Data Field on February 21, 2019 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
PORT ST. LUCIE, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 21: Zack Wheeler #45 of the New York Mets poses for a photo on Photo Day at First Data Field on February 21, 2019 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 15: Pitcher Zack Wheeler #45 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning of a game at Citi Field on September 15, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 15: Pitcher Zack Wheeler #45 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning of a game at Citi Field on September 15, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

What can Wheeler do for the Twins?

With Wheeler’s overall numbers not screaming for ace money, it might be worth wondering why many teams are so eager to sign the right-hander to a large free-agent deal. The answer is that Wheeler’s comeback has been filled with signs of progression, not just with the increase in his fastball velocity, which sat at a career-high 96.7 MPH last season per FanGraphs.

One of the biggest areas of improvement for Wheeler has been his control. While his first two seasons in the major leagues were strong in terms of overall numbers, Wheeler was walking 3.9 batters per nine innings. Over the past two seasons, however, that number has changed by nearly two walks per nine innings and his 3.90 strikeout to walk ratio was a career-high.

Wheeler also saw a career-high in his chase rate at 34.1% and that came despite throwing his fastball 55.9 percent of the time with two strikes. That number caused his hit rate per nine innings to rise to 9.0, but the stuff is there to take the next step as Ben Clemens stated in a piece at FanGraphs.

Simply put, Wheeler has all the makings to take a leap in the near future and there’s going to be a lot of teams that want to be a part of it. For the Twins, they’ve already seen what Wes Johnson can do to put pitchers in a position to succeed. Jake Odorizzi made his first All-Star appearance under Anderson and although things fell apart late, he got through to Michael Pineda, Kyle Gibson, and even Martin Perez to get the most out of them.

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