Fantasy baseball owners are always trying to find that next, great pitcher they can count on. In 2012, fantasy owners latched onto the unhittable Kris Medlen down the stretch, and he carried many of you into and through the playoffs.
In 2013, many of you saw this Michael Wacha kid come in and dazzle batters with a 95+ MPH fastball with a lot of movement.
In Wacha's Major League debut, he tore through the Kansas City Royals on May 30th with 7 innings pitched, 2 hits, no walks and he struck out 6. He even had a hit, for cryin' out loud.
After his first four starts, he had an ERA of 4.37 - not bad for a 21-year old rookie trying to make his way in the bigs. Nonetheless, Manager Mike Matheny sent him into the bullpen to do some mop-up and Hold work. To make a long story short, by year's end, Wacha dropped his ERA down to 2.78, finished with a WHIP of 1.098, and struck out 65 batters in 64.2 innings pitched. He also flirted with a no-hitter on his last outing of the regular season.
So far in the post-season, Wacha's ERA is 1.00, he's 4-0, and his WHIP is 0.704 (holy crap, man!!!), and he has struck out 28 batters in 17 innings pitched.
Still, though, he's been through the league once already, for the most part, and he's been in the national spotlight in the post-season. Major League hitters will be looking to adjust to the movement on his fastball, which means Wacha is going to have to throw it less and mix in - and maybe even learn - a few more pitches, maybe more often than he likes.
The bottom line is this: treat him in 2014 just like you treated Kris Medlen or AJ Griffin in last season's fantasy draft: he's gonna be good, but he's not gonna be this good. Expect an ERA around 3.00-3.50, and if you get something better, take it. Also expect a WHIP around 1.10 and about an 8.50 K/9.
We expect Wacha to go through some growing pains in 2014 - someone's bound to study enough film on him by the time they face him. Also, pitchers like Michael Wacha tend to give it all up in one or two games, so you'll have that one, devastating week, then it'll be smooth-sailing for a few weeks after that. Plus, with a full season in St. Louis - and with that nasty bullpen behind him, We'd be shocked to See Michael Wacha earn anything lower than 15 Wins on 2014.
In an auction draft, he's going to crack the $25 mark easily. He puts up big numbers, he's only 22 years old, there's almost no chance of him getting hurt, and he still has to run through some of the league for the first time, which is definitely to his advantage. He's only faced 11 different teams so far, and he's only faced the Pirates, Cubs, Reds and Braves more than once (and only twice, each, with the exception of the Pirates for a thir timein the playoffs... and we all know how that went for the Pirates). Most of league will be seeing Wacha for only the first or second time ever, and you can bet they'll be a bit nervous when they do having seen him buzz-saw his way through the playoffs.
So, draft Michael Wacha earlier than you should because you're gonna have to if you want him, and spend more than you think you should on Wacha in an auction draft... because you're gonna have to.