Manager Mike Matheny likens right-handed rookie Michael Wacha, the Cardinals' first draft pick in 2012, to right-hander Trevor Rosenthal, who began to turn heads last spring training.
Last spring, Rosenthal, who hadn't pitched above Class A before 2012, progressed so fast that on July 18, he vaulted from Class AA Springfield to the major leagues and ultimately became a key part of the Cardinals' postseason run as a reliever.
This spring, Texas A&M product Wacha, who pitched just 21 professional innings after signing last year, blew away hitters in his first two appearances, striking out eight and walking nobody in five innings, allowing just two hits in the process.
"That guy right now could pitch in the big leagues," said five-time Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina.
"He's got great stuff. He's got a great presence on the mound. I feel that guy could compete right now in the big leagues."
Matheny wasn't quite ready to make that kind of call yet.
"I'm sure that's a huge compliment to get from Yadi," said Matheny. "My comment is that he's doing a nice job when we give him the ball. He just needs to keep his head down and keep doing what he's doing."
But Matheny said, "He's doing all the little things right. That stood out with Trevor last year. He's going about it as you would design for a young player to come in here.
"He's not doing eyewash work, trying to make us all look at him. He's got a maturity to him. Regardless of how many innings he has a pro, he has a disposition."
Pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, asked about his level of excitement concerning Wacha, said, "It's exciting to watch anybody do that. Pretty impressive. Everything about his game is a plus _ his mound presence, his repertoire. He has tremendous upside.
"He'll get innings, that's for sure."
Center fielder Jon Jay, admiring the movement of Wacha's pitches from his defensive perch, said, "There's a reason he was picked so high."
Wacha admitted Molina's praise was "quite a compliment."