Veteran Adam Wainwright is the ace of the St. Louis Cardinals‘ staff. He has finished in the top three in Cy Young voting three times in his career, and has even garnered enough recognition to crack the top-20 in MVP voting three times as well. However, in 2014, the Cardinals Cy Young favorite could very well be second-year pitcher Michael Wacha. The 22 year old dazzled toward the end of last season, and thus far in the spring, he appears ready to take on a much bigger workload for the Red Birds.
Wacha had his third successful Spring Training outing against the Houston Astros. For the spring, he has compiled 8.1 innings giving up only six hits and one run while striking out nine. It may only be a small sample size, but it looks very similar to the run he put together last fall. While Wacha may be the No. 2 starter in the St. Louis rotation now, look for him to become the face of the staff going forward.
At the end of last season, Wacha was simply wonderful. He very nearly no-hit the Pittsburgh Pirates in his first ever postseason start. Also in the NLCS, Wacha stole the show from the Los Angeles Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw. He pitched two games allowing zero runs and earned NLCS MVP honors. In a four start stretch, Wacha ripped off 29.2 innings allowing one run and nine hits with 31 strikeouts.
With all due respect to Kershaw, who is arguably the best pitcher going right now, and even Wainwright, Wacha appears to have that “it” factor for 2014. Last year, the league saw Jose Fernandez capture most of the rookie pitcher headlines, until he was shut down for the season. Kershaw, Wainwright and Fernandez were the top three finishers for the NL Cy Young last season. In 2014, a bold prediction can be placed on Wacha cracking that list this season.
Nick Schaeflein is a sports writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ptchr2424 or add him to your network on Google.