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Zack Wheeler is becoming a legitimate All-Star candidate


Zack Wheeler has had an excellent 2021 season. (Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

It’s far too early to talk about National League Cy Young Award front-runners, but just a few weeks shy of MLB All-Star Game voting opening up, it’s not premature to say this: Zack Wheeler is in the driver’s seat to make his first All-Star Game appearance.

The 30-year-old right hander turned in his second double-digit strikeout performance of the season in Tuesday night’s victory over the Miami Marlins, limiting the Fish to just five hits and one run over seven frames.

On the season, Wheeler is now 3-2 with a 2.52 ERA, 2.56 FIP and 2.0 fWAR. He’s pitched into the ninth inning twice in 2021, including on May 6 when he tossed a complete game shutout against the Milwaukee Brewers at Citizens Bank Park. FanGraphs says that the only two starting pitchers who have been better than Wheeler in 2021 are Gerrit Cole and his former New York Mets teammate Jacob deGrom.

“I know it’s a little bit early – we’re still in May – but I gotta tell you, I like what he’s doing,” Joe Girardi said of a potential All-Star candidacy for Wheeler Tuesday afternoon.

Could Wheeler be joined by any of his teammates? It’s been since 2013 that the Phillies have sent multiple representatives to the All-Star Game, with Cliff Lee and Domonic Brown going that year. Since 2013, the Phillies haven’t had one player make multiple trips to the midsummer classic, with everyone from Jonathan Papelbon to Pat Neshek serving as the organization’s lone representative.

Wheeler, right now, would be a favorite to be on the National League All-Star roster. Every other candidate that the team has may be on the outside looking in currently.

Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto have been excellent when they’ve played, but both have been in and out of the lineup with minor injuries. Harper, a six-time All-Star, has to compete with a crowded group of outfielders that also includes Nicholas Castellanos, Ronald Acuña Jr., Kris Bryant, Chris Taylor and some more traditional candidates like Mookie Betts and Juan Soto. Realmuto has made two All-Star teams, including in 2019 with the Phillies. But his injuries have opened the door for a resurgent Buster Posey, along with Will Smith and Willson Contreras.

Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin also could draw consideration, but they (like Wheeler) won’t benefit from potential fan voting, as Harper or Realmuto could. All-Star Game pitching staffs are decided by the managers, with Dave Roberts slated to manage the National League at Coors Field in July. Given that every team needs one All-Star representative, there’s almost no chance that three Phillies arms will be selected, and no guarantee that even two will. For multiple Phillies pitchers to make the All-Star team, they’ll have to overwhelmingly be among the game’s very best performers, as Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels were in 2011.

So it remains to be seen if Wheeler would be joined by anyone if he is indeed selected to his first All-Star team. But as of now, he seems like a good bet to be an All-Star, and given that the game is being played in a National League Park, maybe he’ll even get a chance to hit.

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