2024 Phillies Player Spotlight: Zach Wheeler

With the 2024 MLB season bearing down on us. We here at EOP will spotlight a Phillies player every week until the start of the 2024 season. We will highlight their 2023 season, strengths, weaknesses, and 2024 projections. This week we will highlight pitcher Zach Wheeler. Ā 

2023 SeasonĀ Ā Ā Ā 

Wheeler was heading into the final season of the five-year, $118 million deal he signed with the Phillies in December 2019. Though he’s been an All-Star for only one of the first four seasons of his deal, Wheeler has provided an excellent return on the Phillies’ investment, going 43-25 with a 3.06 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 21.3 K-BB% across 101 starts.

He’s set to turn 34 years old in May, but Wheeler has shown no signs of decline and has arguably supplanted Aaron Nola — who inked a seven-year, $172 million deal with the team in November — as the staff ace. On March 4, 2024, The Phillies signed Wheeler to a 3-year extension at 126 million keeping him in pinstripes through 2027.

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Strengths

He has the athleticism and solid mechanics to produce an average big-league command. Wheeler pitches off his fastball and puts hitters away with a power-breaking ball, most accurately called a slurve. It has late bite and depth, giving him a second-plus pitch. Wheeler doesn’t throw much of a changeup at this point.

HisĀ four-seam fastballĀ generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ four seamers, has some natural sinking action, has well above average velo, and has slightly less natural movement than typical. HisĀ sliderĀ has a short glove-side cut, is much harder than usual, and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ sliders.

Wheelerā€™sĀ sinkerĀ generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ sinkers, generates a very high number of groundballs compared to other pitchers’ sinkers, has well above average velo, has slight arm side run, and has some natural sinking action.

HisĀ curveĀ has a sharp downward bite and is slightly harder than usual. Finally, the change-upĀ (take this with a grain of salt because they’ve only thrown 12 of them in 2023) is thrown extremely hard, is never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers’ changeups, and results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ changeups and has slight arm side fade.

Weakness

The most glaring weakness that Wheeler has is age. Father time is starting to creep up on the 34-year-old. Wheeler who dealt with multiple injury issues earlier in his career has seemingly overcome them. One can only hope that the non-injury trend continues.

2024 Projection

If the Phillies take the next step in 2024 and return to the World Series, Zack Wheeler will be one of the main reasons why. Wheeler is projected to produce a 3.54 ERA, 3.67 FIP, and 1.15 WHIP. He is also predicted to have a 24.7 percent strike rate and a 5.8 percent walk rate.

While generally positive, what’s interesting about these projections is that the 2021 NL strikeout leader would be less productive than this past season. He’s coming off a campaign where he had the second-best WAR of his career at 5.9. (His best WAR came in 2021, at 7.2.)

While Wheeler’s projected ERA would be slightly better than the 3.61 ERA from this year, it’s the opposite story in most other categories already mentioned. He’s coming off a season where he had a 3.15 FIP, 1.078 WHIP, 26.9 percent strike rate, and 5.0 percent walk rate.

Of course, none of this takes away from the 34-year-old projected to be one of baseball’s very best starting pitchers. As a collective, the Phillies rotation needs to step it up next year, but at least they appear set to be able to once again rely on Wheeler as their one constant.

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Matt Bednarczyk
Matt Bednarczyk

Matt Bednarczyk is your host of Talking Philly Sports With Matty B. He is a proud retired US Army Sergeant First Class, he is also a combat veteran with over 80 months served in Afganistan, and Iraq . Huge Hockey Fan. Matt is a lifelong 4 for 4 Philly sports fan. Born and raised on the Mayfair and Tacony neighborhood lines of Northeast Philly. He brings over 40 years of Philadelphia Sports passion and provides a realistic look at our Major Sports Teams and the most passionate sports fans on the planet. Look for his show live on Edge of Philly Sports.

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