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2023 Player Review: Zack Wheeler

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Where do we even begin? Zack Wheeler once again established himself as one of the best starting pitchers in baseball this season, not only in the regular season but also in the postseason. He finished sixth in Cy Young voting, which was his third time in the top 12 in the four years he’s been with the Phillies.

He also won his first career Gold Glove award, the franchise’s fourth overall and first since Steve Carlton in 1981.

2023 Stats: 32 G, 192.0 IP, 3.61 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 26.9 K%, 5.9 fWAR

The Good

Wheeler is a bona fide ace, and has proven himself as one of the best of the best over the past four seasons. His 19.3 fWAR in that time is tops in the league, and his career 2.42 postseason ERA is sixth best in MLB history.

This season, his sweeper and sinker were his two most effective pitches, both nasty and seemingly unhittable for the most part.

The Bad

The thing about Zack Wheeler is that anything “negative” about his season can only be considered bad relative to his previous performances. He didn’t throw as many innings as he has the past two years — but he still threw nearly 200. His K% was down compared to 2021 — but only by about 2%. His WHIP was up compared to the last 2 seasons — but by less than one tenth. To find faults with his season would just be nitpicking.

The Future

Wheeler will become a free agent at the end of the 2024 season. Dave Dombrowski has already said publicly that they’d like to keep him in the organization for a long time, but an extension isn’t always easy to get done. Wheeler may be looking to test free agency, which could be a nightmare for the Phillies, who just handed out a 7-year, $172 million contract to Aaron Nola. Wheeler is unquestionably better, and letting him get to free agency will absolutely cost them. The main difference between Wheeler and Nola, which might affect whatever deal Wheeler eventually gets, is age. Wheeler is 3 years older than Nola, which may cause the Phillies (and hopefully other teams as well) to hesitate in handing out a long-term contract.