The Hot Seat

This week features the debuts of two of baseball’s top prospects, both of whom are worthy of consideration in nearly any size league. Let’s take a look at where your FAAB bids should go today.

Michael Wacha

It’s a foregone conclusion at this point that Michael Wacha will be joining the starting rotation in St. Louis this week. Wacha was scheduled to start for Triple-A Memphis on Monday, but was scratched from that start, likely a sign that he’s packing his bags and heading to the bigs.

I’m always more comfortable recommending prospect pickups when I’ve had the opportunity to see the player in person. I was fortunate enough to see Wacha start twice in college, including this gem in 2011, which was his first collegiate complete game. It was also on the road against the No. 2 team in the nation. I took notice.

Being the nerd that I am, I’ve been taking scouting notes at games since well before I started writing about baseball. Here are some excerpts from my notebook from that day in 2011: {exp:list_maker}“Fastball ranging from 89-96. Sharp downward plane because he’s HUGE. Adds and subtracts from the pitch with ease without sacrificing command.” {/exp:list_maker} {exp:list_maker}“Caleb Bushyhead is the only hitter seeing the curve at all. Everyone else buckled and baffled.” {/exp:list_maker} {exp:list_maker}“Change-up should develop enough to help him avoid bad splits; struck out lefty Cameron Seitzer swinging at the change.” {/exp:list_maker} {exp:list_maker}“Delivery is so fluid and repeatable. Very consistent. High-ceiling starter profile with great three-pitch mix.” {/exp:list_maker} {exp:list_maker}“109 pitches. 80 strikes. [expletive deleted].” {/exp:list_maker}Prospects are inconsistent by nature, and I clearly caught Wacha on a very good day. Those notes you’re reading above are from what was likely his best collegiate start to that point. Here’s what makes me so confident about Wacha’s potential major-league impact: The things I saw a 19-year-old kid do on a cold day against a college lineup are the same things he’s now doing, just two years later, against Triple-A opponents.

His Triple-A strikeout rate of 5.81 K/9 so far this season leaves plenty to be desired, but Wacha has the stuff to be a 7+ K/9 starter in the majors, and what sets him apart from so many pitching prospects is his consistency. Wacha has allowed no more than two earned runs in any of his nine starts this year, and that level of reliability is extremely rare for a 21-year-old getting his first taste of Triple-A.

The Cardinals have as many starters on the disabled list right now (Jaime Garcia, Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, John Gast) as they have in their rotation (Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Tyler Lyons). With Garcia out for the year, Carpenter shutting down his rehab work and Westbrook headed for Dr. Andrews’ office with elbow discomfort, expect Wacha to join the club this week and stick in the rotation for the balance of the season.

Considering the success the Cardinals have had recently with young starters such as Lynn and Miller, the sky’s the limit for Wacha and he needs to be owned in all formats. In his brief minor-league career, he has a 1.71 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 74 strikeouts and 19 walks in 73.2 innings. That’s a guy I want on my team.

Nick Franklin

Dustin Ackley headed to Triple-A on Sunday to spend some quality time with his buddy Jesus Montero, and Franklin has been summoned to replace him at second base. Franklin was absolutely mashing in Tacoma to the tune of a .324/.440/.472 slash line with a .410 wOBA, whereas Ackley was well into his second season of “Jaw-Dropping Regression Theater,” with a .205/.266/.250 line with a .237 wOBA in the majors. The Mariners have clearly seen enough of this from Ackley, who has done a fantastic job of making everyone forget about his solid rookie season and former prospect status, and the future is here in the form of Franklin.

The 22-year-old has developed elite plate vision, as evidenced by his 30 walks to just 20 strikeouts in 177 Triple-A plate appearances this season, which should help him adjust to major-league pitching relatively quickly. The upside is there for a solid batting average with low-double digit homers and steals. If a middle infielder who can do that would improve your team, Franklin’s your guy.

Speaking of Montero, as I speculated in this column several weeks ago, he has played exclusively first base since being sent down to Tacoma. Watch your back, Justin Smoak.

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Comments

  1. Scott Strandberg said...

    In your league, Wacha. You’ll probably get 4-5 more starts out of him seeing as Wheeler isn’t up yet (and got hit pretty hard last night in Triple-A), and in a H2H league, Wacha’s consistency is great cuz he’s unlikely to give you that one awful start that wrecks your week. For anyone in keeper formats, it’s still Wheeler for me.

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