JP Wheat – Pic via Video by Brando Centrone
One recent trend of the Cubs draft process under Dan Kantrowitz has been to select athletes who have some loud tools but also need some refining. For JP Wheat, he fits both. The young right hander from Next Level Academy in Georgia recently underwent Tommy John surgery which the Cubs knew was going to happen before they drafted him in the 16th round. Still, the Cubs are confident in building on Wheat’s athleticism to develop him into a power pitcher.
Height – 6 foot-5
Weight – 185
Throws – Right
Age – 20 (Just turned this age of 8.3.22)
From – Marietta Georgia
16th round pick 2022 draft
When you see pictures of the former Georgia Tech commit, Wheat’s physical attributes stand right out. One, he’s a big kid. Two, there’s plenty of room to add on muscle. But in watching him throw, he comes across as being very athletic and can already throw in the upper 90s with very little training. He played some OF where his 90+ mph throws from the outfield began to garner some attention.
Wheat’s only been pitching for just two seasons, or basically a year and a half, and it’s realistic to speculate that as hard as he throws, his body was not ready to transform into a starting pitcher so quick.
When he does return from Tommy John Surgery, the Cubs should take their time with him just as a precautionary measure. I would not expect to see more than 2 to 3 innings at a time that first season back. He could be back next summer for the Arizona Rookie League. We just don’t know because everybody’s return rate is quite different that procedure.
The spring, Wheat was sitting 94 to 96 with a fastball and also threw a curve in the upper 70s. As well, he had a changeup that sat in the low to mid 80s.
The Cubs have had a lot of recent success with developing high school pitchers in the lower levels of the minors. How that’s going to play out for Wheat really depends upon how he comes back. With pro instruction and the ability to rehab with physical therapists and trainers who deal with that on a daily basis is only going to help him in the long run.
When the Cubs signed Wheat and it was leaked that he was having TJS, the first thing that popped into my head was that the Cubs were going to rebuild him from the ground up in the rehab process. It’s not as if he’s the $6 million man here, but the Cubs have an opportunity to really mold and shape him as a pitcher from scratch. What he throws and how he throws it is not going to be determined for quite a while. He’s not going to be the original JP Wheat they originally signed.
And that’s really the key.
The Cubs are trying to get athletic guys that they can help shape to become major league pitchers by creating pitches and pitch shapes that benefit them as they move up through the system.
Hopefully, Wheat is able to come back at some point next year and begin his pro career in 2023. I would not expect him to come back and throw more than an inning next year and then the Cubs will probably stretch him out later if they think he’s going to be a starter in 2024.
This is the second time that I’ve mentioned 2024 in development plans for players. It is getting here way too quick. But for Wheat, it probably can’t get here soon enough.
|2||LHP||Jackson Ferris||IMG Academy|
|3||SS||Christopher Paciolla||Temecula Valley HS|
|4||RHP||Nazier Mule||Passaic County Technical Institute|
|5||RHP||Brandon Birdsell||Texas Tech|
|6||RHP||Will Fritsch||Oregon State|
|7||RHP||Nick Hull||Grand Canyon University|
|8||RHP||Mason McGwire||Capistrano Valley HS|
|9||RHP||Connor Noland||University of Arkansas|
|10||RHP||Brody McCullough||Wingate University|
|11||LHP||Branden Noriega||No affiliation|
|12||RHP||Mathew Peters||Indiana Institute of Technology|
|13||RHP||Luis Rujano||Sunshine State Elite Academy in Kissimmee, FLA|
|14||RHP||Shane Marshall||University of Georgia|
|15||C||Haydn McGeary||Colorado Mesa|
|16||RHP||JP Wheat||Next Level Academy|
|17||OF||Andy Garriola||Old Dominion|
|18||RHP||Garrett Brown||University of Georgia.|
|20||OF||Ke’Shun Collier||Meridian CC|
Todd, you mention Wheat as 18 years old. Both the mlb draft tracker data base and Baseball America list him with an 8/3/22 birthday, which would make him 20. Do you have reason to think the 8/3/22 birthday is wrong, and the 18 is correct? I admit I’d thought it curious whether a guy who was turning 20 would have limitless physical projection left; and if he’s 20 now and will miss the next year with the TJ, he’ll basically be 21 probably before he pitches a box-score inning.
Good catch! Odd that he’s just coming out of high school. Most of these posts were written back in early August when I was still on summer break. Thanks for the heads up!