Ever since Michael Wacha burst onto the scene with a near no-hitter in his final regular season start and his spectacular post season, people have been questioning the sanity of the 18 teams that did not take in him the first round of the 2012 draft. The Mets are among those “insane” teams. Now we have an explanation as to why the Mets passed on him, and surprisingly, it is rational.
Mets vice president of player development and amateur scouting Paul DePodesta admitted to the New York Post that Wacha was one their radar. “Our guys liked Wacha a lot in 2012 — one of the top college pitchers on the board.”
However, the Mets were, and still are, rich in pitching and poor in position players in the minors.
“Therefore, we were really focused on position players at the top of the 2012 draft,” DePodesta said. “We didn’t even sign a pitcher in that draft until our fifth selection. So, we really liked Wacha, and he was high up on our board, but as an organization we needed to use our high picks that year to create more value in our position player prospects.”
Instead the Mets took high school shortstop Gavin Cecchini, who has yet to impress down on the farm. It is hard to argue with the decision; why draft more pitching when there are hardly any position players in the pipeline? The media would have blasted the Mets had they taken more pitching.
Of course in hindsight the Mets (and 17 other teams) look pretty bad. But the amateur draft is nothing more than a crapshoot. Nobody thought Michael Wacha would already be where he is today.
It should also be pointed out that even if the Mets had taken Wacha, he would not be in the majors. The way the Mets insist on bringing pitchers along, Wacha would have been pitching in Single-A this season, Double-A in 2014 and maybe, just maybe he would be brought up to the majors in the middle of 2015.
One more thing — let’s not get carried away with Michael Wacha just yet. Many players set the world on fire in their debuts only to flame out. Marty Bystrom was the next great thing in 1980 when he went 5-0 with a 1.50 ERA late in the season to help the Phillies to a pennant. The 22-year-old started the decisive Game 5 of the NLCS, allowing one earned run. He didn’t pitch well in his one World Series appearance, but much was expected of him. He was out of baseball by age 27.
This is not to say that Michael Wacha will not be a successful pitcher for the long-term. He definitely looks great. But what Bill Parcells famously said of Tony Romo as he made a splash in his first few starts certainly applies: “We’ve got a ways to go here. So put away the anointing oil, okay?”