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Will Michael Wacha meet or exceed Joe Magrane?

In Wednesday’s post, we looked at the speed at which drafted St. Louis Cardinals players reached the major leagues. The point of comparison was Thursday’s starter Michael Wacha, who is making his St. Louis debut just 11 months after having been drafted.

In my opinion, even more important than how fast the players got there is what they eventually accomplished as big leaguers. As a measure covering both hitters and pitchers, I selected career WAR, wins over replacement.

In the table below, the less-than-three-years-between-draft-and-MLB-debut Cardinals are ranked in career WAR order.

Player MLB debut Draft Round Draft to MLB Notes WAR
Albert Pujols 4/2/2001 1999 13th 1 year, 10 months 92.4
Ted Simmons 9/21/1968 1967 1st 1 year, 3 months 50.2
J.D. Drew 9/8/1998 1998 1st 3 months 44.8
Jerry Reuss 9/27/1969 1967 2nd 2 years, 3 months 35.5
Dan Haren 6/30/2003 2001 2nd 2 years 32.4
Terry Pendleton 7/18/1984 1982 7th 2 years, 1 month 28.2
Garry Templeton 8/9/1976 1974 1st 2 years, 2 months 27.7
Terry Kennedy 1978-09-04 (2) 1977 1st 1 year, 3 months 21.6
Adam Kennedy 8/21/1999 1997 1st 2 years, 2 months 20.9
Matt Morris 4/4/1997 1995 1st 1 year, 10 months 20.5
Joe Magrane 4/25/1987 1985 1st 1 year, 10 months
Luis Alicea 4/23/1988 1986 1st 1 year, 10 months 11.8
Al Hrabosky 6/16/1970 1969-1 1st 1 year, 5 months Jan draft 10.6
Danny Cox 8/6/1983 1981 13th 2 years, 2 months 9.5
Rick Ankiel 8/23/1999 1997 2nd 2 years, 2 months 8.9
Braden Looper 3/31/1998 1996 1st 1 year, 9 months 8.8
Jim Dwyer 1973-06-10 (2) 1971 11th 2 years 6.4
Donovan Osborne 4/9/1992 1990 1st 1 year, 10 months 5.7
Eric Rasmussen 7/21/1975 1973 32nd 2 years, 1 month 5.1
Chris Perez 5/16/2008 2006 1supp 1 year, 11 months 4.7
Greg Mathews 6/3/1986 1984 10th 2 years 3.4
Allen Watson 7/8/1993 1991 1st 2 years, 1 month 2.9
Matt Carpenter 6/4/2011 2009 13th 2 years 2.8
Cris Carpenter 5/14/1988 1987 1st 11 months 2.5
Alan Benes 9/19/1995 1993 1st 2 years, 3 months 1.4
Seth Maness 5/3/2013 2011 11th 1 year, 11 months 0.3
Jeff Keener 6/8/1982 1981 7th 1 year 0.1
Anthony Reyes 8/9/2005 2003 15th 2 years, 2 months 0.1
Michael Wacha 5/30/2013 2012 1st 11 months
Rudy Arroyo 6/1/1971 1970-1s 4th 1 year, 5 months Jan secondary -0.2
Mike Tyson 9/5/1972 1970-1 3rd 2 years, 8 months Jan draft -0.2
Clayton Mortensen 6/29/2009 2007 1supp 2 years -0.3
Jess Todd 6/5/2009 2007 2nd 2 years -0.4
Ed Crosby 7/12/1970 1969-1 2nd 1 year, 6 months Jan draft -0.6
Don Durham 7/16/1972 1970 7th 2 years, 1 month -0.8
Dan O’Brien 1978-09-04 (2) 1976-1s 3rd 2 years, 8 months Jan secondary -0.9
Steve Peters 8/11/1987 1985 5th 2 years, 2 months -1.2
Average 12.6

Not surprisingly, Albert Pujols is on top. Only eight of the 37 players reaching the majors quickly finished with a negative career WAR.

Closest to the average of 12.6 career WAR is current MLB Network analyst Joe Magrane at 12.2. The left-handed pitcher ascended to St. Louis at one year and 10 months after having been drafted in June 1987. Following an NCAA career at the University of Arizona, Magrane was taken 18th overall (Wacha was 19th overall in 2012; both are listed at 6-feet-6). Magrane went on to pitch in the majors for eight seasons for the Cardinals, Angels and White Sox.

Magrane forged a career 57-67 record with a 3.81 ERA in 190 games, including 166 starts. The Des Moines native came in third in the 1987 National League Rookie of the Year vote and fourth in the 1989 NL Cy Young Award balloting, but Magrane’s main claim to fame may be the NL ERA title in 1988, when he logged a spectacular 2.18. Despite that stellar mark over 24 starts, the anemic offense gave him just five wins that season.

I don’t remember the level of expectations when Magrane made his Cardinals debut on April 25, 1987, but with him being a top prospect, they were probably pretty high. In his first outing, at age 22, Magrane delivered. He went six innings and beat the Mets at Shea Stadium by a 3-2 score. Current FOX Sports Midwest broadcaster Ricky Horton pitched the final two innings for the save.

In his rookie season, Magrane went on to make 27 appearances, including 26 starts. His record was 9-7 with a 3.54 ERA as he threw 170 1/3 innings. His WAR was 1.2. In what would be his only career post-season action, Magrane struggled in the 1987 playoffs, logging an 8.74 ERA in three starts. He took the loss in Game one of the World Series against the Twins and a no decision in the deciding Game seven. (I attended both contests, held at the noisy Metrodome in Minneapolis, from which my ears are still ringing today.)

Would you be satisfied with Magrane-type of production from Wacha? Or do you expect Wacha to become an above-average player compared to the other fast-rising Cardinals? Vote in the polls below.

(Continued thanks to researcher Tom Orf, who pulled the base data shown above.)

Would you be satisfied with a Magrane-type of rookie season from Wacha?

  • Yes (53%, 66 Votes)
  • No (47%, 58 Votes)

Total Voters: 124

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Would you be satisfied with a Magrane-type of career from Wacha?

  • No (98%, 103 Votes)
  • Yes (2%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 105

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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5 Responses to “Will Michael Wacha meet or exceed Joe Magrane?”

  1. blingboy says:

    I voted no for both. I expect Wacha to live up to the hype.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    The difficulty in questions like these is many pitchers are consumables who become injured. Their careers can be most defined not by their abilities but by injuries.

    Joe Magrane was very fine for four seasons, suffered an elbow injury, and faded away. In his preinjury heyday, a better pitcher than, for instance, Jason Marquis. But some guys like Suppan, Loshse, and Marquis deserve credit for staying in uniform and eating amazing career innings.

    Given Joe Magrane was excellent for four years in the majors, we hope for something this nice from Mr. Wacha. We also hope he enjoys a longer career.

    Joe’s dad was a professor at Morehead State in Kentucky. Joe turned down the Pirates as a 3rd rounder, went out to the University of Arizona for 3 years. Some claimed he was too soft a tosser for the majors. The Cards helped Magrane improve his delivery and up the velocity, unleashing much success.

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    Thank goodness, we are less boring tonight, pulling defeat from the jaws of victory. Put Wiggy into the game!

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