St. Louis Cardinals: Seven Predictions For the 2017 Season
By Nathan Grime
If healthy, Michael Wacha will exceed St. Louis Cardinals expectations in 2017 and be one of the team’s best pitchers.
Michael Wacha enters the 2017 season competing for a spot in the St. Louis Cardinals rotation. Question marks also surround the 25-year old right-hander about the health of his right shoulder which landed him on the disabled list in 2014 and 2016.
However, after strengthening the shoulder in the offseason, he’s off to a good start this spring. Mike Matheny gushed over his first bullpen session in February, and he’s been effective in the first week and a half of spring games. Through eight spring innings (three starts), he has yet to surrender a run and has struck out seven.
All that said, Wacha still is somewhat of an unknown for 2017. Even if he breaks camp as the fifth starter (he likely will), the organization has to wonder if he’ll hold up all season as a starting pitcher. The most innings he’s pitched in a major-league season is 181 1/3, when he was an All-Star in 2015.
Wacha burst onto the scene one year after being drafted and led the Cardinals to the World Series in 2013. He was heralded for his sizzling fastball, nasty changeup, and over-the-top delivery. Since his initial stress reaction in 2014, he’s too often left fastballs up in the zone and his secondary pitches have been ineffective.
If Wacha is as healthy as he says he is, there’s optimism that he can return to his dominant form of 2013. Even in 2015, when he didn’t spend time on the disabled list, he still ran out of gas towards the end of the year. The Cardinals might have to set an innings limit on Wacha or monitor his workload closely in another way, but if it keeps the righty effective and away from the disabled list, it could pay off in a big way.
Wacha has an immense amount of natural ability. Physically, he’s got a great build for a pitcher: 6 feet 6 inches and 215 pounds. His fastball and changeup are plus-pitches, and he’s got a curveball and a cutter he mixes in as well.
He’s had a knack for missing bats in his young major-league career, which speaks to the depth and movement of his repertoire. He usually posts decent strikeout totals as well, which is an indicator of his ability to generate swings-and-misses.
If Michael Wacha is healthy in 2017, expect him to have a bounce-back year and ascend again near the top of the Cardinals’ rotation.