It is easy to look back on the 2012 MLB Draft and see that 18 players were picked before Michael Wacha and notice that only two of those players (Mike Zunino for Seattle and Kevin Gausman for Baltimore) have reached the majors; howver, none have had the success that the St. Louis Cardinals, 6’6″ right-hander has had to this point. After another dominating start on Saturday, a 1-0 win over Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Wacha has now dominated in his two postseason starts, posting a 0.64 ERA and 0.64 WHIP over 14 innings after posting a 2.78 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over 64.2 innings in the regular season.
It is unfair to mock or pick apart the teams that drafted ahead of St. Louis, though. Here’s why:
1. Houston Astros: Carlos Correa, SS
2. Minnesota Twins: Byron Buxton, OF
3. Seattle Mariners: Mike Zunino, C
5. Kansas City Royals: Kyle Zimmer, RHP
6. Chicago Cubs: Albert Almora, OF
7. San Diego Padres: Max Fried, LHP
8. Pittsburgh Pirates: Mark Appel, RHP
9. Miami Marlins: Andrew Heaney, LHP
10. Colorado Rockies: David Dahl, OF
11. Oakland A’s: Addison Russell, SS
12. New York Mets: Gavin Cecchini, SS
13. Chicago White Sox: Courtney Hawkins, OF
14. Cincinnati Reds: Nick Travieso, RHP
15. Cleveland Indians: Tyler Naquin, OF
16. Washington Nationals: Lucas Giolito, RHP
17. Toronto Blue Jays: D.J. Davis, OF
18. Los Angeles Dodgers: Corey Seager, SS
19. St. Louis Cardinals: Michael Wacha, RHP
Before Wacha was selected, several of the current top prospects in baseball were selected before him. While Wacha was a collegiate arm who was always expected to move quickly, he was not even the Cardinals’ number one prospect prior to this season, ranking 6th in the organization by Baseball America and 5th in the organization by John Sickels at minorleagueball.com prior to the 2013 season. With Oscar Taveras in the organization, who was ranked in the top three on nearly every prospect list in the world prior to the season, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Wacha wasn’t number one; however, it seems as though others are forgetting that Shelby Miller was a rookie this season, as well, and he only went 15-9 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 2013.
Regardless of where Wacha was selected in the draft, his quick ascension to dominance is just another example of the St. Louis Cardinals being better than everyone else in baseball when it comes to player personnel decisions and development.
The 2013 St. Louis Cardinals were playing their 2nd season without Albert Pujols, who they replaced with Allen Craig. Craig was an All-Star this season who battled through injuries. When he wasn’t on the field late in the season when St. Louis was battling for the NL Central title with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, it was the big boy, Matt Adams at first, who managed 31 extra-base hits and 51 RBI in just 319 plate appearances while posting an identical 131 OPS+ with Craig.
The Cardinals went into the 2013 season with Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Miller, Jake Westbrook, and Jaime Garcia within their rotation. When Westbrook and Garcia went down with injuries, who was there: Wacha and Joe Kelly, who did this in his 15 starts:
Oh…and Kelly is only 25.
Carlos Beltran is heading towards free agency and it is fair to wonder whether the Cardinals will even bother trying to re-sign him, as they could move Craig to right field (he has started 42 games there over the last two seasons) to make room for Adams at first, or they could just plug in the best pure hitter in the minors, Taveras, to reload on the fly.
St. Louis was the team that decided to NOT pass on Albert Pujols with the 18th pick of the 13th round back in the 1999 MLB Draft. They received Adam Wainwright from the Atlanta Braves for J.D. Drew back in 2003. They may have gotten lucky and they may be in the process of continuing to get lucky with their success in decision-making and drafting, but while everyone is creating headlines with Wacha, Wacha, Wacha…other teams shouldn’t take this as a laughing matter. Instead, they need to challenge themselves to be as successful as the bar that the St. Louis organization has set.
It isn’t that your team chose the wrong player, it’s that the Cardinals chose the right player when it was their turn. Time will tell if Wacha is better than the 18 players picked ahead of him, but right now, it is hard to not envy what is happening in the “Gateway to the West”.