Thursday, February 28, 2013

Could Michael Wacha be a darkhorse for the 5th starter job?

"I think that guy, right now, can pitch in the big leagues," Yadier Molina on Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha.

And with that, the hype begins...

Selected 19th overall in the June 2012 draft, Wacha pitched primarily out of the bullpen last year while reaching AA.  He posted an impressive 0.86 ERA in 21 IP, while striking out 40 and allowing only 12 baserunners.

He has carried over that success to Spring Training, allowing just one unearned run in 5 IP, while striking out 8 and allowing just 2 hits.  His command has been impeccable so far, with no walks allowed this spring after posting a 40/4 K/BB ratio last year.

After yesterday's 3 inning, 5 K performance, Wacha is creating quite a buzz in Cardinals Nation.  

But could he really win the 5th starter job?

Short answer:  No, and here's why.

Despite all his polish and his early dominance of mostly minor league players, Wacha is still a work in progress.  As Joe Strauss says, he breaking pitch needs refinement and the safest place to work on that is in the minors.  Baseball history is littered with stories of pitchers who were rushed to the majors only to get pummeled, lose their confidence and never be the same again.

The Cardinals should exercise some patience with Wacha, no matter how good he looks this spring.  Give him some time to develop that third pitch and then see what he can do at the major league level. 

With Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly ahead of him, both on the depth chart and in terms of major league experience, the Cardinals are best served letting Wacha develop. 

However, if the early results are any indication, its very possible that we will see Wacha before the 2013 season is over.


  1. I agree! They are not in any need, at this time, to push him into the majors. The Cards have had some experience in pushing a pitcher too hard, too fast, and have seen the resulting ruination.

  2. Are you referring to Rick Ankiel? I'm not sure his troubles were a result of pushing him too fast--he pitched well during the regular season, but just imploded during the playoffs.

    In any case, there is a risk of pushing a pitcher too fast.