Wacha to make debut on Thursday

FOXSports.com writer Joel Beall examines the promotion of Michael Wacha to the big-league level for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2013 MLB fantasy baseball season.

The Cardinals posted the fourth-lowest ERA among starting staffs last season, finishing with a 3.62 mark. This was an impressive feat given ace Chris Carpenter made just three starts on the year while Adam Wainwright struggled mightily in the first half off his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery. Alas, due to free-agent departures or stints on the disabled list, most of the integral components (Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook, Carpenter) of the 2012 rotation are no longer present. Naturally, the St. Louie arms have never been better, flaunting a league-best 2.64 ERA through 50 games in 2013.

While Wainwright’s return to All-Star form has been a major boost, the primary catalyst for this mound brilliance has been the production of the Cards’ young cannons. Top prospect Shelby Miller is 5-3 with a 2.02 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP in 10 outings, third-year man Lance Lynn has seven victories along with a 2.95 ERA, even recent call-up Tyler Lyons impressed in his major-league debut, going seven innings of one-run ball. The Redbirds are hoping Michael Wacha joins this lights-out rank when the highly-touted hurler makes his first start in the bigs on Thursday.

The first-round pick of the Cardinals in 2012, Wacha was ranked as a Top 100 prospect by both Baseball America and MLB.com in the offseason. However, no one envisioned the Texas A&M product to be as dominant as he’s been this spring, holding opponents to a 2.05 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in nine starts in the offensively-conducive Pacific Coast League. This performance, coupled with the plethora of injuries to the St. Louis staff, has equated to a promotion to the Show for the 21-year-old Wacha.

From a fantasy standpoint, Wacha’s likely innings limit somewhat hampers his value, and he’s not necessarily big on racking up the Ks, with a pedestrian figure of 5.8 punch-outs per nine innings. However, with Garcia out for the year, a solid string of appearances out of the gate could cement his big-league status for the rest of the summer. Furthermore, with a powerful offense at his disposal, Wacha should be a candidate for victories in most decent outings. In deeper leagues or AL-only formats, Wacha is a must-own, and even in standard divisions, should be on the radars of rotisserie managers.