With the success demonstrated by St. Louis Cardinals rookie starting pitcher Michael Wacha in the 2013 Major League Baseball post-season, questions are being asked all across the game. Other clubs which passed on the right-hander, taken 19th in the 2012 draft, are being grilled.
The standard concerns about Wacha pre-draft were his perceived lack of a third pitch, a breaking ball, and a feeling by some that his fastball was flat and often up in the zone, making him home run prone.
In my internet travels recently, I have come across several of these other-club query-explanations. The most recent was from the Cleveland Indians, via Cleveland.com. The Tribe selected 15th in 2012.
Brad Grant, Indians director of amateur scouting, shared his club’s view with writer Paul Hoynes, one that was not all that positive about the Cardinals’ rookie:
“Grant said that the 2012 draft took place just over a year ago and that there will be many better big league players to come out of it….”
A few thoughts come to mind.
First is that there is the important element of time. Granted it has only been one-plus years, but getting to the majors and contributing quickly has significant value. Without Wacha, the Indians lost in the first round of the 2013 playoffs.
Secondly, many first-rounders do not become productive big-leaguers. We have no way of knowing how many of the initial 18 taken will reach the majors at all, let alone be better than Wacha, who obviously has a nice head start.
Third, I thought it interesting that Grant did not specifically include Cleveland’s 2012 first-rounder, Wacha’s former Texas A&M teammate, outfielder Tyler Naquin, in his assessment.
Next up is the New York Mets, a team that has only finished as high as third place once in the last five years. The club has a five-year string of losing records, assuring them of an early draft pick each year. The Mets drafted 12th in 2012.
Mike Puma of the New York Post spoke with Mets vice president of player development and amateur scouting Paul DePodesta.
DePodesta was very complimentary of Wacha, but noted the Mets already liked their system-wide pitching depth coming into the 2012 draft. Apparently the potential of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler gave the organization the confidence to focus elsewhere, which is what they did.
The Mets did not take a pitcher until the fifth round, using their first pick on high school shortstop Gavin Cecchini, whom the Cardinals’ State College club faced in the short-season Class-A New York-Penn League this summer.
I can’t fault the Mets for having a plan and sticking to it. But did they? I found it interesting that New York selected right-handed pitchers in both the second and fourth rounds in 2013.
The Nationals picked 16th in 2012. MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo spoke with Washington scouting officials.
“They did have Lucas Giolito ahead of Wacha on their board, with Giolito having been a potential No. 1 overall pick before his elbow injury at the start of his senior year of high school. Giolito, the thought was, had a much higher ceiling than a pitcher like Wacha, and the Washington scouting staff still feels it made the right decision.”
Of course they feel that way. At this point, one would certainly not expect any organization’s scouting staff to engage in public second-guessing. But I can.
With the Nats having reached the post-season in 2012 but falling short in 2013, one has to wonder. Couldn’t Wacha have helped them make up the four wins they would have needed to catch Cincinnati as the second wild card?
On second thought, maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. To even have Wacha available in October, the Nationals would have needed a smarter workload management plan than the widely-panned one they devised for Stephen Strasburg in 2012. Nats officials still refuse to admit that obvious blunder.
Anyway, a Giolito-Wacha comparison over the long haul will be easy to monitor.
It is still very early, but I imagine in private, a number of clubs that picked from number one to 18 in 2012 would gladly accept a do-over if it could be magically granted today.
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