Meet Michael Wacha, Baseball's Next Great Young Arm

Josh SchochAnalyst IIISeptember 25, 2013

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 24:  Starting pitcher  Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals is congratulated by fans and teammates after leaving the game in the in the ninth inning  against the Washington Nationals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on September 24, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  Wacha did not allow a hit until in the ninth inning.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Michael Wacha came within one out of a no-hitter against the Washington Nationals on Tuesday before Ryan Zimmerman's infield single ended it.

Overshadowed by fellow rookie Shelby Miller all year, Wacha finally put himself on the map in leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a 2-0, shutout victory. However, fans still have no idea who this 22-year-old rookie is.

Let's take a look at Wacha's journey to The Show and beyond.

 

College Years

Coming out of Pleasant Grove High School in Texarkana, Tex., Wacha spent his college years at Texas A&M as an Aggie. Wacha was an immediate success in College Station, going 9-2 with an ERA of 2.90 and 97 strikeouts and 22 walks in 25 appearances (10 starts).

He was dominant, ranking fifth in the Big 12 in wins and sixth in ERA to earn Freshman All-American honors. His sophomore campaign was even better, as he went 9-4 with a 2.29 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 129.2 innings pitched.

Wacha's success earned him third team All-American honors from Baseball America, and was enough to warrant him being a first-round selection in the 2012 draft.

 

Breezing Through the Minor Leagues

Wacha's college career lasted just two years before he was drafted No. 19 overall by the Cardinals. Signing on June 14, 2012, St. Louis gave him a $1.9 million signing bonus.

first rounder Michael Wacha, star rhp from texas a&m, agreed for $1.9M with the #cardinals, pending physical.

— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) June 12, 2012

@JordanJohn19 flyin to st. Louis on Wednesday for the physical. What about you

— Michael Wacha (@MichaelWacha) June 12, 2012

Wacha went all the way from rookie ball to Double-A in his first year in the minors. Allowing just two runs in 2012, Wacha posted an ERA of 0.86 across all three leagues he played in. He was simply superb.

Wacha started 2013 in Triple-A Memphis, and he proved that he was capable of dominating there as well. Going 5-3 with a 2.65 ERA in 15 starts, with 73 strikeouts versus just 19 walks, Wacha pitched 85 innings before he was called up to the majors.

 

Getting the Call...Twice

Michael Wacha impressed the Cardinals so much that he was called up in late May to face the Kansas City Royals on May 30.

His debut was a great one, as he went seven strong innings, giving up just one run.

Newest #Cardinals call up Michael Wacha made an excellent first impression. 7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 6 K.

— Bowman Scout (@BowmanScout) May 31, 2013

Wacha's debut was just as impressive as his minor league dominance. However, his next two starts were lackluster, and he was sent back down to the minors to clear room for Jake Westbrook's return from injury.

His 2013 MLB season wasn't over just yet, however.

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 19:  Starting pitcher Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 19, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Wacha was called up again in mid-August to face the Chicago Cubs. After his first re-start, however, Wacha moved to the bullpen for the rest of the month, giving up three earned runs in 10.2 innings pitched. All three of those runs came against the Milwaukee Brewers on Aug. 19.

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11:  Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals plays against the New York Mets at Citi Field on June 11, 2013 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

In September, he would move back into the starting rotation, and this time he was there to stay.

After pitching six shutout innings on the road against the Cincinnati Reds, giving up just three hits, Wacha proved that he deserved his spot in the rotation. Including Tuesday night's stellar performance, Wacha has gone 2-1 with an ERA of 1.74 in the month of September, giving the Cards yet another great starter in the rotation.

 

How Did He Do It?

We know that Michael Wacha is a fast learner, as seen by his quick adjustments (and promotions) to every level of baseball he's pitched at.

The Show has been no different for Wacha. After his recent gem, Wacha has a legitimate case to be in the Cardinals' postseason rotation. While Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller are locks, the next-best pitcher on the team might be Wacha.

I do feel good that two best Cards pitchers going into postseason are (arguably) Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha.

— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) September 25, 2013

Maybe @MichaelWacha should be on the postseason staff... #maybe

— Laike Pogue (@LaikePogue) September 25, 2013

With a stellar ERA and his prodigious abilities to adjust, Wacha could very easily pitch for St. Louis in October.