Michael Wacha holds a special place in my heart. When Albert Pujols left the Cardinals for the west coast during December of 2011, I partially disowned the player I was most fond of in my childhood; the reason I became a Cardinals fan back in 2001. (Hopefully I didn’t just lose a lot of readers…)
Having a vague understanding of compensatory draft picks, I paid attention to the 2012 MLB Draft. When the 19th pick came up, and St. Louis selected the tall righty from Texas A&M, I associated some of my fleeting distaste for Pujols with the gift given due to his departure. The logic of disowning a player for nothing more than assuming his blind loyalty, which no player should have, in retrospect, was terrible. But the product of my now-distant bitterness was admiration for Wacha.
That affinity soared when he broke out during the 2013 Postseason, mowing through the Pirates and Dodgers before collapsing in Fenway during the final game of the World Series. Wacha then evolved into the low hanging fruit of regression candidates when 2015 finished, fulling that tag a year later when the product didn’t match his peripherals. But an aggregated look at last season stands out for the 26-year-old. A noticeable jump in strikeouts, coupled with usage tinkering, results in an intriguing starting pitcher who lasts into the 20th round of drafts on average.
Rudy has Wacha 175th overall on Razzball’s Player Rater for 15-team NFBC leagues, a solid five rounds ahead of his current NFBC price tag. Grey is even more aggressive on Wacha, ranking him as a viable SP3, inside his top 40 pitchers and inside his top 125 overall. There is love for Wacha on Razzball and I support the aggression.
It’s hard to think of Wacha without citing his injury history and his ADP may be a tangible result of his unfortunate doctor visits. I alternate my perception of Wacha’s injuries between two categories of thought: development and mechanical.
Development is all eye-test or feel based. I hold a space in my mind, with every young arm, that aging and growth can help mature one’s body out of recurring injuries. Others are simply just injury prone. If that doesn’t quench your thirst for understanding – it shouldn’t – then the folks over on Top Velocity‘s YouTube channel might help.
I’ve cited their expertise multiple times with Ralph on the Razzball Prospect Podcast, and do so again here to fulfill the “mechanical” portion of my thoughts on Wacha’s injuries. One of the things they point out is the lack of engagement in Wacha’s lower half. It might look like he’s driving off his back leg after you observe his toe drag away from the rubber, but that’s a deceptive trick of the eye when you compare his lower half to a pitcher like Noah Syndergaard.
Please, blog, may I have some more?