Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wacha Latest Rookie to Debut

                                                Michael Wacha, set to debut Thursday

The Cardinals have faced numerous injuries to their pitching staff this season. Chris Carpenter went down right before spring training and his status is uncertain. He has mentioned the possibility of returning later in the season as a reliever. His career was thought to be over a few months ago, but Carpenter has dealt with that possibility before. Jason Motte had to have season ending Tommy John surgery a month ago after missing the first month. Jaime Garcia recently had season ending shoulder surgery. Jake Westbrook is on the disabled list with an ailing elbow and recently sought a second opinion on it. Rookie lefty John Gast went down after 3 big league starts with shoulder tightness. To make things worse, the bullpen struggled early on with poor performance from Mitchell Boggs, Marc Rzepcynski, Fernando Salas, and Joe Kelly.

Luckily, the Cardinals have the game's best farm system and it's loaded with pitching. Shelby Miller won the fifth spot after Carpenter's injury opened it up. Miller has been dominant so far, going 5-3 with a 2.02 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. He is a top contender for NL Rookie of the Year, but it is a crowded field. Gast won two starts before going to the DL. The Cardinals called up another rookie lefty, Tyler Lyons, to take Garcia's spot. Lyons has gone 2-0 and went seven innings with only 1 run allowed in both starts. With Gast's injury, the Cardinals have decided to call up 2012 #1 draft pick Michael Wacha to take his place. Wacha has been a fast riser in the system and is a month away from turning 22.

Yadier Molina said that Wacha was ready for the big leagues late in spring training this year. He was expected to spend most of the year in Triple A, but multiple injuries have opened up an opportunity for him. Wacha was a compensation pick for losing Albert Pujols to the Angels. In Triple A this year, Wacha has went 4-0 with a 2.05 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP in 52.2 inning pitched. Wacha is a 6-6 right handed pitcher who went to Texas A & M. The Cardinals also considered Kelly as a possibility, but decided on Wacha after passing over him two other times. Wacha will be the 7th rookie to pitch for St. Louis this year and the fifth to debut. So far, rookies have pitched 29 % of the team's innings, have 33 % of their strikeouts, and have won 14 games.

Carlos Martinez flashed some of his immense potential in his call up to the Cardinals this month. He pitched 7 games out of the bullpen for the big club after starting the season in Double A. Martinez also missed spring training because of a visa problem. The Cardinals sent him down earlier this week in favor of Victor Marte. He was sent down so he can start on a regular basis since the Cardinal envision him as a starter. If the Cardinals need another starter for whatever reason, it's very likely Martinez will be back up. He has electric stuff and was ranked the Cardinals #3 prospect coming into the season. He has a similar build and look as Pedro Martinez.

The Cardinals have also fixed their bullpen problems. Edward Mujica has converted all 17 of his save opportunities after taking over the closer role. Rosenthal has took over the 8th inning role and has excelled after some early hiccups in April. Rosenthal came up late last year, but is still a rookie this year. Randy Choate has been a good lefty specialist so far. Seth Maness has won 4 games in relief since being called up. The only downside of Maness is his 1.50 WHIP. The Cardinals also have called up Michael Blazely, but he has yet to pitch for them yet. Blazely will be the 8th rookie to pitch for the Cardinals when he debuts. Kelly, Boggs, and Salas have been up and down, and hopefully can be straightened out some point in the year.

With Westbrook out, Adam Wainwright is the only seasoned veteran on the staff. He is now the mentor of a very young, very talented staff. In the last two seasons, Kelly, Miller, Gast, Lyons, and now Wacha have debuted and started for St. Louis. Lance Lynn made his debut in 2011 and had his first full year in the big leagues last year. Garcia was a rookie in 2010. Along with Martinez, that's a lot of talented pitchers to come along in a short amount of time. In my lifetime, the Cardinals have never had this many young arms come up at once. The Cardinals will no longer have to resort to relying on guys like Kip Wells, Todd Wellemeyer, Sidney Ponson, and other mediocre journeyman type pitchers to fill out their rotation. They could have a dominant rotation for years to come with plenty of depth.

                            Rookie lefty Tyler Lyons

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