A St. Louis sports alternative..

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Ranking the St. Louis Cardinals' top prospects in 2013: No. 6 Michael Wacha

The St. Louis Cardinals are just days away from reporting to spring training, which means many of the Cardinals' best prospects will be fighting for position within the organization.  At times during these February days down under the Florida sun, careers can be defined and paths can be altered.

Continuing our countdown of the St. Louis Cardinals' top prospects of 2013, we turn to one of the newest additions to organization who has already made a big splash in a very short period of time. No. 6 in our rankings is pitcher Michael Wacha.

Michael Wacha, SP, 21 (will turn 22 July 1)
2012 Highest Level: AA Springfield
2012 AA Stats: 21 IP, 40K, 0.86 ERA, 0.57 WHIP
2013 Predicted Highest Level: AAA Memphis

Michael Wacha enters our countdown of best St. Louis Cardinals prospects at #6. He is the lowest prospect from the 2012 draft to be on this list.

Wacha comes to the Cardinals after a very successful college career at Texas A&M. In 2012, Wacha spent the first half of the season in college and the second half in professional baseball. The Cardinals took it easy with Wacha by only pitching him 21 innings.

Here is the scouting report on Wacha by MLB.com, who also had Wacha as the Cardinals sixth best prospect.

His live, quick arm fires fastballs up to 94 mph, and there might be more in the tank there. He threw a curve in college, but some scouts felt he'd be better off focusing on a slider. Wacha didn't use a changeup often, but showed some feel for it and it has a chance to be a good pitch. He's aggressive on the mound and commands the baseball pretty well. Wacha has the chance to be a big, durable big league starter, and it may not take him long to get there.

In the same article, there is a comparison to Jon Garland. Now, while the Garland comparison might not be exciting, go look at his numbers. Garland was very durable and did win 18 games twice in the American League.

I believe the Cardinals will take it slow with Wacha because he pitched so much in 2012. I am not expecting him to make it to St. Louis in 2013 for a couple of reasons. First, he has Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal ahead of him in the rotation. Second, he only has 21 professional innings. Third, there are a ton of reliever prospects that could see time in the major league bullpen before Wacha (Gast, Blazek, Cleto, Fornatero).

I believe that Wacha's ceiling is not as high as Shelby Miller's or Trevor Rosenthal, but the Cardinals know what they have in him. There really is not much risk there. I think at best Wacha can be a #3 starter and at worst a #5 starter.

Wacha is exactly what the Cardinals need right now, a middle of the rotation starter. They have guys (Miller, Rosenthal, Martinez, Jenkins) who could be top end starters. Wacha is a great fit for the Cardinals system.

John Nagel is the owner and editor of CardinalsFarm.com, a website dedicated solely to covering the St. Louis Cardinals farm system. We are privileged to have Nagel's insight and expertise occasionally here at StlSportsMinute.com. You can follow Nagel on Twitter (@CardinalsFarm) or "Like" his page on Facebook.