Fantasy Baseball: Michael Wacha, Tony Cingrani Proving They’re For Real

Michael Wacha
Michael Wacha
Greg M Cooper USA TODAY Sports

It’s just one start. You can’t tell anything from one start.

For Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha and Reds hurler Tony Cingrani, however, it’s not just one start. It’s one more start in two growing resumes of the next generation of Cy Young-caliber pitchers.

On Wednesday, the two youngsters faced off in one of the best pitching duels of the early season. The two combined for 13.2 scoreless innings, surrendering a combined five hits and three walks while striking out 16 batters. The Reds ultimately won the game in the 9th inning, after Chris Heisey drove in Ryan Ludwick but the two efforts were equally stellar nonetheless.

I previously wrote about both in a column during spring training, identifying both pitchers, along with Gerrit Cole, as top undervalued draft targets. If you weren’t lucky enough to grab either pitcher in your draft, despite their ADPs being far lower than their potential production, now could be your last chance to trade for either before they embark on a possible Cy Young bid.

Michael Wacha

Wacha looked flawless on Wednesday, allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out seven through 6.2 innings. This is nothing new. In spring training, the 22-year-old made five starts, posting a 1.77 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 23 K/4 BB over 20.1 innings of work.

In the postseason last year, Wacha started another five games, going 4-1 with a 2.64 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 33 K/12 BB in 30.2 playoff innings. During the regular season, he posted a 2.78 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 65 K/18 BB in his first 64.2 Major League innings.

This all surprised no one. It took just 106 minor league innings before Wacha made it to The Show. While skyrocketing from Single-A to Double-A to Triple-A, Wacha posted a 2.29 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 113 K/23 BB.

Do you see a pattern forming here? Most pitchers, even the best ones, stumble along the way. Clayton Kershaw posted a 4.26 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in his rookie season. Not Wacha. Wacha has been untouchable at every level.

If you missed out on Wacha, now could be the last time the youngster is “acquirable.” It’s early yet, but I would easily project Wacha’s season production in the top 20. His strikeouts, unhittable stuff, and aversion to walks makes him a perfect trade target while his still relatively moderate level of name recognition means many owners won’t clutch on to him like they would with someone with massive name value like Yu Darvish or Max Scherzer.

Tony Cingrani

On Wednesday, Cingrani surrendered just two hits and two walks while striking out nine over seven innings of work.

Like Wacha, Cingrani was quick to make a splash last season, going 7-4 with a 2.92 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 120 K/43 BB over 104 innings pitched. Also like Wacha, Cingrani didn’t spend too much time in the minors, albeit considerably more with 228 minor league innings.

Over his minor league career, Cingrani went 16-6 with a 1.65 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 301 K/69 BB.

There are significant differences between the two pitchers, however. At 6.2 hits per nine innings last season, Cingrani is as unhittable as starters get. Wacha allowed a hit more, still great, but less unhittable.

On the other hand, Wacha walked a mere 2.6 batters per nine last season, while Cingrani walked 3.7. Basically, they’re slightly different pitchers with identical WHIPs.

The one thing that’s worrisome about Cingrani is that he is a fly ball pitcher. On Wednesday, Cingrani allowed seven fly balls to four ground balls On the other hand, Wacha allowed five fly balls to eight ground balls. Fly ball pitchers, especially ones that have to play in Cincy half the time, are prone to giving up the long ball.

Last season, Cingrani allowed 1.2 home runs per nine innings while Wacha allowed 0.7 per nine.

In other words, Wacha is less likely to allow a big hit to change an entire game, plays in a more pitcher friendly park, and is part of, arguably, a better system in St. Louis. Therefore, if you have to choose one, Wacha would be the safest bet.

Regardless, these two kids aren’t flashes in the pan. They have outright dominant stuff and were hugely undervalued in drafts with Wacha’s ADP falling around 128 in ESPN leagues while Cingrani went around 177. Because they were likely drafted later than most pitchers who will put up similar numbers, owners are more likely to trade these two than someone they invested a high draft pick in like Zack Greinke or David Price, who I believe will yield less fantasy returns than either of the two youngsters.

Their value is a tick higher after their 2014 debuts but the time to strike is now.

author avatar
Igor Derysh
Igor Derysh is Editor-at-Large at XN Sports and has been featured in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sun-Sentinel, and FantasyPros. He has previously covered sports for COED Magazine, Fantasy Alarm, and !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');