TCN 2013 Cardinals Prospect #4: Michael Wacha

The first-rounder dominated in his 2012 debut. How fast can he move up? Today's report is FREE!

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2012 and career stats)

School: Texas A&M University

2012 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NA RHS 7/1/1991 6-6 195 R R 2012 1st

Selected 2012 stats

GCL 0 0 1.80 3.00 3 2 0 5.0 4 1 1 0 7 3.00 0.222 0.273
PB 0 0 0.00 -0.43 4 0 0 8.0 1 0 0 1 16 1.67 0.040 0.111
SPR 0 0 1.13 0.08 4 0 0 8.0 3 1 0 3 17 1.33 0.111 0.300
Total 0 0 0.86   11 2 0 21.0 8 2 1 4 40 1.88 0.114  

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (3): Many people know that I am extremely high on Michael Wacha. I have rated him as high as any ranking I've seen. I've been called everything from crazy to idiot. Regardless, I still think Wacha is the third best player and second-best pitching prospect in the Cardinals' system.

Why am I so high on Wacha? One word - dominance. He was totally dominant in his short stint in 2012. I can't recall any pitcher at any level in any organization being so dominant. Not even Aroldis Chapman of the Reds or Craig Kimbrel of the Braves were as dominant in their minor league days.

The most common argument is that he was able to throw harder and be more dominant because he was pitching in short relief stints. Well, even if he were to end up a reliever and be that dominant, I'd probably still rank him the same. The better argument is that it was a small sample size. Possibly, but I have no reason to think it was not representative. Scouts were raving about the progress of his off speed pitches which were supposedly his weakness. How will he do as a starter? Most likely we'll find out in 2013 and I'm betting on the side of more dominance.

Wacha should commence 2013 as a starter in Double-A. I think if the Cardinals need him at the major league level before the end of 2013, he will get the call. If not, I look for a 2014 debut for Wacha.

Message board community (5): Wacha debuted at fifth on the community list. He didn't pitch that much after being drafted, but what he did was most impressive. He fanned 40 in just 21 innings pitched, including 17 in his eight Double-A innings.

Wacha worked out of the pen in nine of his 11 professional outings, and that might have worked in his favor. Batters only saw him once (though judging by the strikeout rate, they might not have seen him at all!), and he didn't have to conserve resources for a longer appearance. But that K rate is simply stunning, especially for someone fresh out of the draft. Wacha is tall (6-foot-6) and is said to be coachable.

I would expect him to be in the rotation at Double-A this year. The Cards have enough other pitching prospects such that there is no need to rush him, but I could see him reaching Triple-A before the year is out and being in the hunt for one of the rotation spots that should open in 2014. - Gagliano

Brian Walton (6): Even though my ranking may not indicate it, I am as high on Wacha's potential as anyone. His present results – in 21 innings in his 2012 debut across three levels - were video game-like.

Still, let's not forget that his performances were carefully scripted, both in terms of when he would pitch and how many pitches he would throw. We have yet to see what happens when Wacha is asked to pitch six or seven innings and go through a lineup a second time, let alone facing opposing hitters a third time in the same game. In the eight-team Texas League, a pitcher has to meet the same clubs over and over. We can learn a lot about a player through the course of a long summer.

Early reports on Wacha's breaking ball were mixed, while others have said the pitch is better than advertised. As his outings are extended, there may be a need for greater reliance on his curve and changeup compared to his 93-96 mph fastball. I haven't yet been able to see Wacha pitch in person to gauge for myself, but it certainly bears watching in 2013.

I don't have substantial doubts about Wacha, but then again, until he does it, he hasn't done it. In the interim, there has to be some question about his level of proficiency as a professional starter. For that reason, I kept a more proven arm in Carlos Martinez just ahead of Wacha in my personal rankings.

Any of those potential worries could be answered during this coming season, allowing speculation to progress to projecting the time of Wacha's arrival in St. Louis and in what role he might be initially asked to play. With so many other promising starting and relief options already on the 40-man roster, I doubt it will be in 2013, however.

Our 2013 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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