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Michael Wacha | RHP, Cardinals | Born:  7/1/1991

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time I’ve covered Wacha in the Scouting the Unknown series.  I actually wrote a brief report on him a little less than a year ago while highlighting some notable draft prospects.  You can read that post here.  Now, it may seem like I’m double-dipping, and I suppose, technically, I am.  But since last June, there are very few prospects whose stocks have soared quite like Wacha’s has.  Suffice to say, there’s plenty of reason to revisit his outlook, applying what we’ve learned over the past year or so in watching the 21-year-old compete at the professional level.

The Cardinals drafted Wacha 19th overall last June, and at the time, most viewed that selection as a smart, safe pick, but not necessarily one of the high-upside variety.  The initial reports suggested a big-framed righty with a solid fastball, a plus changeup, and a breaking ball offering that was fringy at best.  Fast-forward 11 months.  At 6-6, 210, Wacha still features a big, durable pitcher’s frame — he hasn’t shrunk any, which is good.  His arsenal, however, has come a long way.  He’s added a couple ticks to the fastball, which now touches 95 with some consistency, and he still spots it with great command.  The changeup continues to be a plus weapon.  The curve is the most notable improvement — a late-breaking power curve that he throws with confidence and deception.  That pitch has gone from a borderline unusable offering, to a serious weapon with plus potential at the big league level.

Wacha’s 2012 numbers were just plain silly:  0.86 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 17.1 K/9 in 11 appearances across three levels (Rookie, High-A, Double-A).  Those 11 outings, however, only tallied up to 21 IP.  The Cardinals were keeping his workload light, and Wacha never worked through a batting order more than one time through.  That was the only criticism, the only reason to expect regression  as he stepped up to Triple-A ball this season.  Well, Wacha’s done a fine job of quelling those concerns so far.  He’s found a groove in his last three starts, allowing only 2 runs and 11 hits across 20 frames.  The K’s are down, but that was to be expected. The command is still working, though, and the stuff is MLB-ready.  With Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal entrenched in the Cardinals bullpen, Wacha could be next in line for starts in St. Louis.

Courtney Hawkins | OF, White Sox | Born:  11/12/1993

Sticking with the 2012 first-rounders theme, let’s discuss the 13th overall pick, Courtney Hawkins, who’s drawing a lot of attention this season with some serious Donkey-like numbers.  The Sox have been aggressive with Hawkins from the start, allowing him ample full-season playing time in his debut season, even bumping him up to High-A for the final month.  At the end of his first year, he had hit .284/.324/.480 with 8 homers and 11 SB through 250 PA between Rookie, Low- and High-A, all at age 18.  With that sort of power at such a young stage in development, it’s no wonder that Hawkins was the popular pick for the No. 1 spot on White Sox prospect lists — we were no exception.  He’s returned to High-A Winston Salem for the 2013 season, but the numbers this time through aren’t so solid across the board.  There are strong areas — with 7 homers already, he’s on pace to hit more that 40.  And there are weak areas — Hawkins has struck out 44 times in 82 PA, on pace for something like 250 whiffs.  The 19-year-old has just 12 hits this season, for a .167 AVG, but 7 of those hits left the stadium.

His case is a curious one.  The Sox must be thrilled with the huge power Hawkins is showing, but if the K’s continue at this rate, they’ll need to consider bumping him down the ladder to a level where he can more easily focus on approach and pitch recognition.  There’s plenty of time for him to improve in that regard, and for fantasy baseball purposes, I truly hope he doesn’t go the way of the Donkey.  Either way, though, he’s a fascinating dude to follow.

  1. Grey's Mom says:
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    When do you think we see Wacha and in what role for the Cards?

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Starting pitcher as soon as there’s a need… tough to project for an injury. John Gast will be in the conversation too, but Wacha has the more impressive profile.

      • TheNewGuy says:
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        @Scott Evans:
        Surely C-Mart has to be first on the conveyor belt no?

        • Scott Evans

          Scott Evans says:
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          I’m thinking he’s behind Wacha & Gast for the immediate future… that could change as we progress a bit further into the season

          • TheNewGuy says:
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            @Scott Evans: Called it man!

  2. Kim Jong Un says:
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    Hey look I’m Fozzy Bear! Wacha Wacha Wacha!

    seriously though, good stuff. I feel that Cardinals pitchers have the advantage of Dave Duncan and a generally rock-solid organization

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Ha! Thanks, Kim. Dunc’s influence is still their, and many of his philosophies are still implemented, but even beyond the pitching end of things, STL is best org from top to bottom in baseball at the moment

  3. malamoney says:
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    I’ve been looking at Wacha lately and have read some great stuff. Seems like the real deal. Would love to stash him, but not at the expense of dropping Cole, Taveras or Myers.

    Actually just picked up some tix to see Wil play in Pawtucket this Saturday. Hope he doesn’t get called up before then!

    Talk to me about Yordano Ventura.

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Wouldn’t drop any of those three for Wacha, but I’m also excited about his potential. Awesome about the Pawtucket tix!

      Ventura — arguably the best fastball in MiLB, and great start at AA this year… only question is his size & durability… in any case, he’s a top notch late innings guy, or a #2 type starter.

      • malamoney says:
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        @Scott Evans: Will we see him this year?

        • Scott Evans

          Scott Evans says:
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          It’d surprise me if he got an extended look this season, but a late season arrival isn’t out of the question.

  4. Allof says:
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    who would you rather have buck or Pierzynski I just dropped buck for pier and looks like I’m starting to regret it Thanks

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      I like Pierzynski for ROS… wouldn’t regret that move just yet.

  5. Mike says:
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    Thoughts on if you like Wacha more than Taillon, Gausman or Taijuan Walker?

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      No, he’s a ways behind those three…

  6. danny says:
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    Better stash for this year, Cole or Gausman?

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      I’m sticking with Cole, but Gausman has been solid & he should arrive in Baltimore around the same time as Cole does in Pittsburgh…

  7. Clint says:
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    What? No Fozzie the Bear throw up with the all-too-easy Michael “Wacha Wacha Wacha” reference? Gotta hang out with Grey more, Scott :)

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Grey calls me & screams ’til his voice is raw whenever I try to be clever/funny with wordplay. That’s his niche. I know better than to step on his toes…

  8. Dan says:
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    What about a time table on taillon? Where would he rank with cole, wacha, walker, gausman, Archie Bradley?

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Maybe a late season call up for Taillon… for long-term outlook, he’s in the same tier as cole/gausman/bradley/walker, a notch or two ahead of wacha

  9. TheNewGuy says:
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    Finally found a team to play ball here over in the UK. 1st practice session this evening boy it felt good! Been wanting to play for years but never found a local team to play. But now found a team, and there is enough teams around now to make it a fairly competitive league.

    Did better than I expected with the glove and showed a good eye at the plate according to the coach… hey if I cant hit my way on initally at least I maybe able to walk! And there was some good players on the team too …Yanks and Japanese unsuprisingly!

    Seems theres some US army base close to the town which is why these American guys have set up a team. Pretty cool huh.

    • TheNewGuy says:
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      @TheNewGuy:

      Oh and grab Wacha for Barnes/Olt if hes available right?

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Ha! That’s great! First time playing? Walks are as good as hits, but for recreation purposes, it’s fun to swing the bat!

      Re: Wacha, if you’re still itching to dump Olt (who has a mysterious vision problem now), you could swap for Wacha if available…

      • TheNewGuy says:
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        @Scott Evans: seems Wachas taken actually. In that case think ill make the splash and take A Hansen over him, seeing as Olts values just getting lower and lower. Whend you think we’ll see Hansen in the Bigs?

        • Scott Evans

          Scott Evans says:
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          I’d still hold Olt over Hanson in hopes that Olt shakes off this awful start… also because Hanson probably won’t surface til 2015.

  10. TheNewGuy says:
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    Whos the daddy! Called it on the C-Mart promotion man, just check the responses to the first post here. Maybe if I keep this up ill be competing with you for a place on here writing prospect posts ;) , ha nah was a but of a fluke, just thought he couldnt be far away. He worth a grab though in standard leagues? Wonder if he has a chance of snagging the closers job, certainly closer stuff, hope to see him tonight.

    And yeah it was fun man playing baseball! Not only my first time playing over here, the first time Ive ever seen a baseball team over here, no kiddin. But they do exist now, mainly in smaller towns, and the league is meant to be pretty competitive. Lookin forward to trying my hand at pitching next week, never done it before so could have a hidden skill! Interested to see if any guys can throw much secondary stuff like curves, sliders etc, are they meant to be tough to pull off?

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Haha! Nice one, man. Disappointing for fantasy’s sake that he’s coming up in relief. I expect his stuff to dominate in short stints & I’m wondering if he’ll be so good as a reliever that the Cards won’t leave him in that role for this season & beyond. Stuff would play as a top-tier closer & will probably get there eventually, but Cards have the luxury of Mujica & Rosenthal ahead of him, so prob not worth the pickup in H2H, but might be worth a flyer in mixed roto…

      Re: pitching, I have little-to-zero experience so my advice should be followed with extreme caution. I’ve tossed some curves & changes in cages w/ very basic instruction. For me, it was all about feel — you’ll have to get a feel for the grip & release point & other nuances… that’ll take a bit of patience, but it’s not especially difficult. If you have a decent coach out there, you’ll pick it up. Perhaps I’ll be writing notes on your arm before long!

      • TheNewGuy says:
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        @Scott Evans:
        Haha well im 25 now so maybe a chance im one of those Evan Gattis journeymen types who comes outta nowhere I guess! Wonder if there ever has been a Brit make the bigs, would it be a record? I know theres been a few Aussies make it recently, Balfour being one.

        Yeah kinda a bummer for Rosenthal (me) and C-Mart owners in keepers I guess, as only one guy can get the saves! Hopefully they’ll consider a switch for C-Mart come the summer ala Chapman, or maybe even give Rosie a shot in the rotation?

        Cool yeah my coach is pretty good, really keen on getting more people involved over here. Nice to hear its not too impossible to learn secondary stuff, still think ill have better success at the dish mind! Coach says ive got good hand-eye coordination, all about workibg on my hitting mechanics now so when i get my pitch I can do something with it!

        • TheNewGuy says:
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          @TheNewGuy: and C-Marts in now ( sure youre watching)!

          • Scott Evans

            Scott Evans says:
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            Thought I responded to this late last night, but must’ve deleted my response… Too much wine. Was watching & it was awesome. Heater was sitting at 97! Rosenthal should get a crack at starts… I hope Martinez does too, but rotation is awfully crowded.

  11. THE_FEARK says:
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    Would you trade Frazier and Bradley for Wacha in a keeper league? Frazier is expendable as I have Lawrie and Arenado, both Bradley and Wacha are the same price

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