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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Why didn’t we take Wacha?

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 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.’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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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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39 Responses to “Why didn’t we take Wacha?”

  1. blingboy says:

    Wacha’s contribution down the stretch and postseason already makes his selection a winner for the Cards, even if he fades away. Not that he will.

    A very encouraging 95 innings in MLB, preceeded by 85 encouraging innings a AAA. We will have to see what 2014 looks like.

    Personally, I would be hesitant to trade Shelby or Lance just yet. (Hesitant doesn’t mean I wouldn’t, it means I would not feel 100% certain Wacha will start 30 games and win 15 in 2014).

    • kray66 says:

      I agree with bling on trading Lynn or Miller. Seems like we’ve often thought “We have plenty of arms” only to lose one or two at bad times. The downturn of Lynn and the injury to Westbrook this year would have been worse had Kelly and Wacha not been able to step up and pitch well.

      That said, there are a lot of candidates that could step up in 2014 to cover Garcia if he doesn’t come back fully or Wacha if he doesn’t repeat the 2013 success, and to cover for a trade of Lynn/Miller.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    The Indians should be embarrassed. While left swinging CFs have value as fly chasers who get on base, Naquin does not have exciting speed like Ellsbury or power. He was a high floor, low ceiling pick. The Cards found Skip Schumaker in round 5, Jon Jay in round 2, Aldron Chambers in round 37. Its possible to find Naquins lower in the draft. Better to look for power or pitching in the middle of the 1st round. Its been a long drought for the Indians since Manny Ramirez or CC Sabathia.

  3. Bw52 says:

    Shelby Miller finishes a distant 3rd in ROY.Fernandez from Marlins was the winner with Hollywood Puig runner up.How do you win 15 games pitch pretty good decent whip good ERA pitch for a contender and then barely get any votes for 3rd place?So a guy on a team that sucks all year and has no pressure of a pennant race wins ROY and Everybody`s darling Cuban of the week finishes 2nd.People says stats aren`t all that important a lot of the times but winning 15 games for a team figting for a division title all season should mean more than winning 12 games for a team fighting to keep from losing 100 games.As much as I can`t stand Puig I think he had more impact than Fernandez.

  4. Bw52 says:

    So pitching in a pennant race counts absolutely nothing .See my post above.

  5. Bw52 says:

    So I say Bull.Nobody is saying Fernandez isn`t good.I am just ticked off because pitching well for a terrible team apparently matters more than pitching well for a team fighting for a penant in a tight race.The lack of consideration of the situations of which the players performed is what ticks me off.Miller was barely a afterthought to the freaking writers.

    • crdswmn says:

      Pitching well period is what matters. What team you play for is irrelevant and should be.

      Fernandez pitched better than Shelby.

    • Brian Walton says:

      So B-dub, how do you feel about the P-D voter leaving Matheny off his Manager of the Year ballot? 😉

      • blingboy says:

        Seriously, he probably thinks the same as a lot of us who follow every Cards game play by play. Mike makes too many in-game mistakes in the areas of bullpen use and when and how to employ bench players. I understand that his clubhouse personality management skills are already good. Nothing at all wrong with the job he does for a second year manager with no prior experience managing, but he is not yet one of the best in the game. He has become better as he gains expeience, and a MOY honor could be in his future. Time will tell.

        • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

          With one out to go in the series, he gets Miller up…………. like maybe he wanted to give him a chance to pitch in the series………like it was just baseball………. He allows Mo to weaken his Pen for “mystery reason” ………. people notice that he is a lackey and treat him as one……….

          I think he’s okay as a coach. He has so many conditional players and front office investment issues………how can he manage……. and if Freese goes low enough…..they will sell him to you again………… guy is a cripple……. anyone think Benji is getting better pay in Texas? considering playoff shares? 4 guys make the Payoffs… goes all the way…..and he isn’t even nominated…..that’s good stuff…..

      • Bw52 says:

        Matheny deserves some credit and should get some votes as MOY.As for leaving him off the ballot completely that is crazy wrong.Bling says it best in his post below.

  6. Bw52 says:

    Any comments on the Freese to the Yankees rumors.Most on Cards sites seem to favor such a move.

    • blingboy says:

      Freese for who?

    • Brian Walton says:

      Tells you a lot about “most on Cards sites” when they are behind a trade when only one side is known.

      • blingboy says:

        I would think other teams know who the Cards might be willing to move and inquiries are made. Hardly seems worth mentioning unless there are names attached.

      • crdswmn says:

        Some people have developed an intense hatred for Freese. I don’t agree with it, but I understand why many would want him traded for performance reasons, but there is a subset of fans that have just made it personal. People mocking him and suggesting he quit baseball and deliver pizza instead, others saying trade him for a bucket of baseball because he’s worthless, stuff like that. I don’t know where stuff like that comes from, and I don’t care, there is absolutely no reason to be so hateful. People treat each other terribly in our society and I am fed up to my hairline with it.

        I’m quitting now before this rant gets worse.

        • Brian Walton says:

          A lot of unhappy people out there, empowered by the relative anonymity and easy access the internet offers them.

          • kray66 says:

            Exactly Brian (and crdswmn). I try to avoid reading comments sections online anymore, but still get drug in to them. The dumbing down of society combined with the easy access to spout of dribble is a bad combination.

            But I’m with you on Freese. An upgrade at the position would be nice (especially considering the in-house candidate for that) but I feel like Freese has given the team the best he can. I can’t imagine a lot of trade value for him. Is he worth keeping as a bench player?

  7. Bw52 says:

    Well excuse me.I thought you people might be interested in some Cards rumors .As for people liking the thought of trading Freese I don`t see why the snarkiness is needed Brian.People just expressing opinions .

  8. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    And the Yankee’s aren’t just jumping in to stir the pot a little? ………………. David Freese is seriously hobbled…………….. He was having throwing problems……hitting??….. what this likely means is a campaign to resurrect Freese in SL to delay the Wong move till mid season………. if you have to ask why the Yankees might be obliged to lend a hand……..spare me…..

  9. […] rapid success led to a number of other teams’ fans asking why their organizations passed on Wacha, who should be an integral member of St. Louis’ rotation for […]

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