Thursday, December 25, 2014

A word on Aaron Nola, Marco Gonzales and Michael Wacha

Marco Gonzales is the latest Cardinals pitcher to get fast-tracked to the bigs.

A word on Aaron Nola, Marco Gonzales and Michael Wacha

One hour post game on a getaway day, and John Mozeliak is on the closed circuit television at Busch Stadium with the collar to his suit shirt unbuttoned and a weary expression on his face. That combination of things rarely occurs when there is good news, and, lo and behold, the news was awful. In addition to veteran lefty Jaime Garcia, the Cardinals were sending up-and-coming righty Michael Wacha to the disabled list. Take that into consideration the next time you think the injury bug has unfairly bitten the Phillies. Anyway, it probably should not come as a surprise that the Cardinals will replace Wacha with another young, promising arm from their system. This time, it is lefty Marco Gonzales. 

The situation is an interesting one for Phillies fans because Gonzales and Wacha are both former first round picks who made or will make their major league debuts one calendar year after signing their first contract (Gonzales' debut will come a few days north of a year, while Wacha's was a few days shy of a year). The Phillies, of course, took a college pitcher at No. 7 overall this year in LSU righty Aaron Nola.

Gonzales, a lefty out of Gonzaga, was selected at No. 19 last year. He pitched in eight games in the minor leagues after signing last summer, posting a 2.70 ERA with 8.9 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and 0.4 HR/9 in 23 1/3 innings. This year, he made six starts at Class A and seven at Double-A, combining for a 1.89 ERA, 9.2 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 0.4 HR/9 in 76 1/3 innings. Wacha’s track was similar. Selected No. 19 overall out of Texas A & M in 2012, he appeared in 11 games after he signed, then started 15 games at Triple-A the following season before getting the call. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote a bit about the Cardinals’ penchant for drafting college starters, and the Phillies’ aversion to doing so. On the one hand, Wacha is now dealing with a shoulder injury. On the other hand, the Cardinals got 155 innings of 2.79 ERA and 133 ERA+ baseball out of him, which could very well be more than the Phillies get out of their first pick that year, Shane Watson, who is also dealing with a shoulder injury (Watson, admittedly, was drafted 20 slots higher than Wacha).

Gonzales will be the sixth pitcher drafted since 2009 to start a game for the Cardinals: Wacha (24 starts), Tyler Lyons (12), Joe Kelly (34), Shelby Miller (47), and John Gast (3).

The only Phillies pitcher drafted since 2009 to start a game is David Buchanan, who has six starts this year. The Phillies did get 83 total starts out of Vance Worley, Tyler Cloyd, and Jonathan Pettibone, all of whom were drafted in 2008. If we're going back to 2008, you have to add Lance Lynn to the Cardinals' list. 

It will be interesting to see what Gonzales brings to the table, since the Cardinals selected him three slots after the Phillies took J.P. Crawford, a toolsy shortstop with big upside who is their best prospect and who has had a great start to his minor league career, but who is still at least two years away from serious major league consideration. 

Nola, by the way, made his debut last night, and he struggled, walking three and striking out three and allowing a home run (he was charged with five runs total in 2 1/3 innings). 

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