Wacha is second only to veteran starter Adam Wainwright with 9.2 innings pitched in four games. He’s shown excellent control (.072 WHIP) and leads the team with 13 strikeouts and just one walk. Batters are .167 against him with six hits and just one (unearned) run scored. Seth Maness and Mitchell Boggs are the only other Cardinals pitchers that have not allowed an earned run.
Wacha is also showing his ability to finish games as he has the only save on the staff so far this spring.
The concern on Wacha might be that he’s only pitched in 21 minor league innings jumping from Rookie League ball up to Double-A in his first professional season. That incredibly small sample size would make any scout, analyst, beat writer, etc. scoff, but it’s starting to look like St. Louis has something in Wacha
Projected with a ceiling of a mid-rotation starter, Wacha has a strong one-two punch fastball and change with a slider that he continues to work on. His control–as mentioned before–is his strong point. How high Wacha can go as a big league starter will rely on his trust in a breaking pitch.
Wacha excelled at Texas A&M starting his freshman year when he was named an All-American, a feat he again accomplished his sophomore year. His strong senior year is what caught the eye of St. Louis scouts as the Cardinals made him the 19th overall pick in the 2012 Major League Baseball draft.
With Trevor Rosenthal being asked to go back to the bullpen, the competition is down to Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly for the fifth spot in St. Louis’ rotation. Miller has been so-so and we haven’t seen much from Kelly yet. Even if both don’t dazzle, the likelihood that Wacha makes the rotation is slim. He still has much to prove in the minors and there are a handful of other pitchers in line ahead of him–one being Carlos Martinez who is a prospect ranked above Wacha but is having Visa issues at the moment.
That being said, one thing Wacha has going for him is that he was drafted out of college. Had he been a high school pitcher, this isn’t even a discussion. Scouts have noticed maturity beyond his years as he never gets rattled on the mound and has the poise of an MLB veteran.
Wacha has another two weeks to keep up the pace as one of the best pitchers in the Grapefruit League. If his numbers stay the way they are now, it’s going to be very hard for the Cardinals’ brass to ignore the potential he’s showing.
Keep an eye 0n Wacha this spring. His story might end up being the most compelling down in Jupiter, FL.