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Prospect Profile: Michael Wacha, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

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Michael Wacha
Michael Wacha
Jonathan Brownfield, USA Today Sports

Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal are the two pitching jewels in the St. Louis Cardinals farm system, with Carlos Martinez not far behind them. Not to be overlooked is Michael Wacha, drafted in the first round last June out of Texas A&M. Here is my current report, with an additional note below.

Michael Wacha, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-6 WT: 195 DOB: July 1, 1991

It is difficult for a first round pick to exceed expectations, but Michael Wacha has done that. Drafted 19th overall out of Texas A&M last June, Wacha was a durable and often dominant college workhorse with a 90-94 MPH fastball and an outstanding changeup. He also has a solid curveball and slider, and he proved he could hold up to a heavy workload in college without ill effect. The Cardinals didn't want to push his innings count too far, so they used him in relief after he signed, with stunning results. His velocity kicked up a notch, to 94-97, and he still maintained the solid secondary arsenal. His command has always been impressive, and the resulting 40/4 K/BB ratio in his first 21 professional innings took even the optimists by surprise. Wacha will return to starting in 2013 and it will be interesting to see how much of the new velocity he holds. Even if he goes back to "just" 90-94, his wide array of pitches and sharp command should get him to the majors quickly. He projects as a number three starter and quite possibly more. Grade B+.

I think the main difference between my profile for Wacha and scouting reports you may see from other sources revolves around Wacha's breaking ball. Everyone seems to like his fastball and changeup, but his curveball and slider draw less praise. Based on what I've seen from him, I felt that both his curveball and slider are better-than-advertised. They aren't outstanding, but they seemed solid enough to me, particularly the slider. In this regard Wacha reminds me of Orioles prospect Kevin Gausman, another tall right-hander with a live arm, a great changeup, and a reputation for inconsistent breaking pitches. Gausman throws harder more consistently, is more athletic, and thus a better prospect, but there is nothing wrong with Wacha. He'd be the top pitching prospect in many farm systems.