Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 10/27/13

During the FOX telecast of Thursday night’s Game Two contest between Boston and St. Louis, there was some speculation among those gathered about what sort of players could have possibly been selected in the 2012 draft ahead of 19th-overall pick Michael Wacha, the Texas A&M product who has pitched excellently for the Cardinals this postseason just a year-plus after having been acquired. In part, such feelings are understandable. One finds, in Wacha, a young pitcher excelling at the highest level under very demanding circumstances. That Wacha was chosen by the Cardinals — an organization whose player-development department appears, not unlike an early 1980s iteration of Tom Cruise, to have all the right moves — likely only compounds the impression that Wacha’s talents were there to be seen, had anyone been looking properly. Of course, to proffer these assumptions is to dismiss the scouting efforts of the 18 organizations that selected ahead of St. Louis — and also, probably, to distort the player-development process. That Wacha is outperforming the pitchers* selected ahead of him is undeniable; however, one must also consider that there is possibly, among those other pitchers, one who possesses a higher ceiling and who might, ultimately, have a more productive career. *To compare Wacha with those playing the same position. Below is a brief summary — for purposes of reference — of the seven pitchers to have been selected ahead of Wacha in the 2012 draft. Ages are “baseball” ages (i.e. as of July 1, 2013). Stats provided are from level at which pitcher recorded the most innings this year. For each player, the author has also provided a brief (and largely unstudied) summary of that player’s present status. If one is interested in drawing conclusions from the information presented here, probably the one to draw is that — to the half-trained eye, at least — there existed reasonable arguments for selecting the pitchers who were taken before Wacha. There’s also reason to believe that certain of these pitchers have generated reasons for optimism regarding their own future major-league careers. Player: Kevin Gausman, 22, RHP (Link) Club: Baltimore Orioles Drafted: 4th School: Louisiana State Univ. 2013 Stats: 47.2 IP, 9.3 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 1.5 HR/9, 3.99 FIP (MLB) Comments: Actually made his major-league debut on May 23, a week before Wacha. Like Wacha, pitched ca. 50 innings as starter and in relief. Like Wacha, exhibited impressive fastball and changeup (or, in his case, splitter). Like Wacha, recorded well above-average peripherals. Unlike Wacha, was less fortunate by other measures: .328 BABIP, 18.6% HR/FB, and 64.4% LOB. Still, rather impressive. Player: Kyle Zimmer, 21, RHP (Link) Club: Kansas City Royals Drafted: 5th School: Univ. of San Francisco 2013 Stats: 89.2 IP, 11.3 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9, 3.12 FIP (High-A) Comments: Despite playing collegiately in West Coast Conference (i.e. not typically a baseballing powerhouse), distinguished himself as amateur by means of excellent arm speed. Threw 95 mph a lot this season, according to internet. Lots of optimism regarding makeup, as well, according to Royals AGM J.J. Picollo. Placed 28th on Marc Hulet’s midseason prospect list. Very encouraging, all that. Player: Max Fried, 19, LHP (Link) Club: San Diego Padres Drafted: 7th School: Harvard-Westlake HS (CA) 2013 Stats: 118.2 IP, 7.6 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9, 3.90 FIP (Class A) Comments: High-school selection. Received first extended exposure to professional batters this season after being handled lightly following draft. Known for excellent curveball. Command not “issue,” per se, but something to monitor. Talent and relative youth are both causes for optimism. Ranked 41st on Hulet’s midseason list. Still quite promising, one would say. Player: Mark Appel, 21, RHP (Link) Club: Pittsburgh Pirates Drafted: 8th School: Stanford Univ. 2013 Stats: 33.0 IP, 7.4 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9, 3.26 FIP (Class A) Comments: Stats are from 2013, but not recorded with Pirates organization. Returned to Stanford following draft. Picked subsequently by Houston. Relatively low draft slot in 2012 was more question of signability than talent. Player: Andrew Heaney, 22, LHP (Link) Club: Miami Marlins Drafted: 9th School: Oklahoma State Univ. 2013 Stats: 61.2 IP, 9.6 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 0.3 HR/9, 2.60 FIP (High-A) Comments: Was actually more dominant, one could argue, than Wacha during their respective juniors years in Big 12, posting a lower ERA and better strikeout-to-walk figures. Injury limited him early in 2013. Went on to post excellent numbers in High-A Florida State League. Ranked 37th among all prospects by Hulet at midseason. Has case for best left-handed prospect in baseball, says Jim Callis. Player: Nick Travieso, 19, RHP (Link) Club: Cincinnati Reds Drafted: 14th School: Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL) 2013 Stats: 81.2 IP, 6.7 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9, 3.96 FIP (Class A) Comments: Another high-school selection. Regarded as probably rawest talent among group. Ranked 40th by Baseball America among draft-eligible players entering relevant draft. General sentiment indicates he has excellent arm speed and flashes of dominance, but lacks command and pitchability. Not present among Hulet’s top-50 preseason prospects. Muted expectations, one could say, perhaps. Player: Lucas Giolito, 18, RHP (Link) Club: Washington Nationals Drafted: 16th School: Harvard-Westlake HS (CA) 2013 Stats: 22.2 IP, 9.9 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, 0.0 HR/9, 2.32 FIP (Rookie) Comments: Possible top selection in 2012 draft, if not for injury to UCL in senior year of high school. Underwent Tommy John surgery almost immediately after signing. Returned July of this year, healthy. Earned promotion to Low-A, eventually. Sat in mid-90s, according to internet.

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