This article is part of our Rounding Third series.
Appealing to Authority
I added a handful of projections for Rays players in the last 24 hours, including Wander Franco, but the player I wanted to start with is Michael Wacha. Why would I find a pitcher who finished with a 6.62 ERA and 1.56 WHIP last season, short sample caveats included, all that interesting? Moreover, why would a team that went to the World Series, one that's considered to be one of if not the smartest team in the room, find Wacha all that interesting? If we're drafting Wacha, are we just appealing to authority and trusting the Rays?
Let's look at Wacha's statistical profile to see if we can reveal any clues. There are some positive indicators, but you have to squint to see them. First, despite missing some time on the IL last year due to shoulder inflammation, he retained his average fastball velocity, at 93.6 mph. Alas, he hasn't been getting great results with that fastball — hitters slugged .727 against that four-seamer last season. The culprit could be a spin rate that placed him in the 15th percentile last year. Might the Rays be able to unlock more spin on his fastball, cutter and changeup? Will they alter his pitch-mix and optimize his offerings? Wait, I'm already starting to appeal to authority by counting on that improvement!
OK, Wacha also cut his BB% from 9.6 down to 4.5, putting him among the league's elite strike-throwers, while also increasing his K% from 18.5 to