COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals are suddenly in a bit of a pitching crunch with starters Jake Westbrook and Jaime Garcia finding their way to the disabled list. Surprising to some fans has been the team's reluctance to promote minor league star Michael Wacha to the big league roster based on his success in 2013.
Seth Maness and Tyler Lyons have found their way to St. Louis in the last few weeks, and deservedly so, but Wacha continues to pitch in the Memphis. He has continued his dominant ways in his first full season of professional baseball, allowing less than one baserunner per inning, striking out more than twice the amount of hitters that he has walked, and posting an earned run average of 2.05 while holding opposing hitters to a .187 batting average.
So, why does he stay in Memphis while others come to St. Louis to fill out the rotation?
The infamous "clock"
General Manager John Mozeliak denies it being a deciding factor, but the infamous arbitration "clock" is looming over a young man that the team intends to control for a long time. Adding Wacha to the 40-man roster and bringing him to the big leagues would result in the tall, Texas righthander reaching free agency a bit earlier than the team would like him to as well as earn him some extra arbitration dollars This team is building for an affordable future and the arbitration clock of one of their top prospects is going to play into that decision.
He needs to struggle
Now, that's the opposite of what you would think. Sure, he has shown the ability to dominate and produce at a high level early in his career, but how will he react when he does not have his dominant form? That is the true test that separates top-of-the-rotation starters from the number three guy in the rotation. Finding out how he pitches when he struggles is as important as how dominant he is at his best.
He is still learning
It is easy to forget that Wacha was a draft pick in 2012 and he is still learning how to pitch professionally. Most notably, as Mozeliak is quick to point out, is that Wacha has not had to pitch in a five-man rotation prior to this season. During his college career, he was used once every seven days. That can lead to fatigue and struggle late in the year and the Cardinals would much rather see that and be able to help him adjust in Memphis than they would in St. Louis.
Make no mistake, if he continues to perform at the level he is at so far, he will be in St. Louis sooner rather than later. That being said, it may be best for Wacha and the Cardinals for him to get a full season at Memphis.
It's a nice problem to have for both of them.
- Sports & Recreation