by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
With Alex Reyes appearing like he’s going to be sidelined for the 2017 season (though we await the results of his second opinion), most of our attention will be on Michael Wacha and rightfully so. St. Louis has other options (i.e. Luke Weaver) we have to think that Wacha will get every opportunity to win the final spot in the Cardinals rotation.
Of course he has his own questions hovering over him, after he struggled through an abysmal 2016 campaign (5.09 ERA, 1.48 WHIP). Part of it was likely due to shoulder issues, but there were always question marks:
Lack of Strikeouts
Just look at his numbers over the past three seasons:
His SwStr% has regressed with each season (he went from 11.4% in ’13 to 8.1% in ’16) and he’s never featured much of an O-Swing% (30.9% for his career). His changeup is a viable put away pitch (18.71% Whiff%), and his most successful offering…
We left that hanging because you could argue that it was his only successful pitch last season:
If he can’t produce with his other pitchers, a strong changeup is irrelevant.
If he was a dominant control artist or routinely got opposing hitters to drive the ball into the ground we could overlook the lack of strikeouts (and the questions about his repertoire wouldn’t be there). His control is strong (2.84 BB/9 for his career) and there are groundballs (45.0% for his career), but neither are an elite skill nor do they overcome the strikeout rate.
There was reason for concern prior to his miserable season, considering a career 22.0% line drive rate and .294 BABIP. The luck went the wrong way last season, as we’d expect (.334 BABIP), and it’s not something we can bank on him improving. Wacha still isn’t a guarantee to open the season in the rotation, further complicating the matter. There’s more reason to invest, but Wacha is hardly a must buy even after yesterday’s news.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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Make sure to check out our other Early 2017 Rankings: