Zach Attack: A Look At Today’s Doubleheader
We’re less than a month away from the end of Syracuse’s 2012 season, but there’s still plenty of reason to come stop by Alliance Bank Stadium this year. Take today for example: the Chiefs and Buffalo Bisons will go at it in a Triple-A battle of the Nationals and Mets. For any Chiefs fans in the area, or any fans of the big league Mets, today’s twin bill features a number of juicy storylines. Let’s take a look at the two games through four intriguing players – that just so happen to have something in common…
Duke’s the Game 1 starter for Syracuse, and there’s reason to believe that the International League All-Star will submit another brilliant performance tonight. Duke, who’s tied for the league lead with 11 wins, has simply dominated the Bisons this season. He tossed seven shutout innings against Buffalo in a May 1 win, and threw six scoreless frames against the Bisons on July 4. Why has Duke been so successful against Buffalo? The Bisons are a very patient team, second in the league in walks and first in strikeouts, and Duke prides himself on throwing strike one. Get ahead of hitters and work from there – that’s more or less Duke’s philosophy.
Though the Chiefs are nine games back with 30 games to play, Duke still has plenty left to pitch for. At 11-5 with a 3.78 ERA in 21 starts, he’s already showed that he can have success in the International League, consistently giving the Chiefs a solid start. He’s thrown at least six innings in eight consecutive starts and at least 5.2 innings in 13 straight starts. There are ramifications for Duke here for the future, as he’s with Washington on just a one-year deal. Can he still be effective in the majors? He’s held lefties to a .255 average this year and posted an ERA in the threes in the last three months. Another good start could go a long way toward solidifying a return to the major leagues for the former National League All-Star.
Buffalo’s Game 1 starter is an appetizing one. Wheeler – perhaps the Mets’ best overall prospect – will be making his Triple-A debut tonight. The 22-year-old righty-hander was 10-6 with a 3.26 ERA in 19 starts with Double-A Binghamton. He throws in the high 90s with a sharp curveball, named the best curve in the Mets’ organization by Baseball America. Wheeler was acquired by the Mets last season in a one-for-one swap with the San Francisco Giants for Carlos Beltran. Considering Beltran didn’t re-sign with the Giants, and likely wouldn’t have re-signed with the Mets – consider this a potentially huge win for New York.
While the big league club’s started to slip, hopes are high for Mets fans now. Vaunted prospect Matt Harvey has recently gone up to the major leagues and tossed a few great starts, while Buffalo right-handers Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia still have tremendous potential. But it may be Wheeler who’s the most anticipated of anyone, and he could provide the foundation of a future rotation of aces for the Mets. And the beginning to the final step before the majors starts today in Syracuse.
Walters, a 22-year-old middle infielder, is one of the newest Chiefs, after being added to the roster on Friday. He’s jumped through the Nationals’ system this year after starting the season with Advanced-A Potomac. Walters was also part of a one-for-one trade last season, coming over to the Nationals from Arizona in exchange for starting pitcher Jason Marquis. (Marquis didn’t re-sign with Arizona and likely wouldn’t have re-signed with Washington…so, much like the Wheeler deal, this could end up being a steal.) He’s a switch-hitter with a solid glove and some pop in his bat, smacking 19 doubles and 11 home runs in 99 games so far this season.
Where does Walters fit in the Nationals’ future plans? He’s looked at as a potential Steve Lombardozzi-type, providing some help for middle infielders Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond. Of course, a 22-year-old switch-hitting shortstop with pop doesn’t need to be relegated to backup status. Walters has already exceeded expectations this season, and it should be fun to see if he can continue to do so with Syracuse. Plus, the youth movement’s already been good to Syracuse this year, thanks to the 15-game hitting streak of Triple-A rookie Eury Perez.
26 years old might be the outside edge of being considered a “prospect”, and Lutz reached that mark two months ago. But just because he’s hit that magical number doesn’t mean there’s no future for Lutz. On the contrary, the infielder is a powerful bat whose best days seem to be ahead of him. In 47 games this season, Lutz has posted a slash line of .325/.429/.556 thanks to 11 doubles and 8 home runs. The right-handed hitter who made his major league debut this season (1-8 in four games) has always hit when healthy – but it’s the latter concern that’s often been the problem. Over the last three seasons, Lutz has played just 72 games (in 2010), 63 games (2011) and 53 so far in 2012. In those 188 games, he’s smashed 39 home runs. If he stays healthy, Lutz is a definite corner infield option for the Mets in the future.
From 22-year-old Eury Perez to 39-year-old C.J. Nitkowski (just promoted minutes ago!), there are plenty of reasons to come check out the Chiefs and Bisons today. But we’ve given you at least four, a group of Zach(k)s that likely have big league years galore to come. So catch ’em while they’re still here.
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