When the 2022 MLB season began, expectations were relatively low for Michael Wacha when it came to fantasy baseball projections. Well, the Boston Red Sox starting pitcher has safely outperformed his pre-season ADP with a quick rise up the fantasy baseball rankings over the season’s first few months. At this point, Wacha is no longer a fantasy baseball waiver wire target as he’s rostered in 62% of Yahoo leagues. Managers everywhere are instead wondering if the veteran right-hander is worth acquiring or dealing away as the fantasy and MLB trade deadlines approach. Can Wacha keep it up as a fantasy baseball sleeper? What are some realistic expectations for the rest of the season in your fantasy MLB lineups? Let’s take a closer look at the latest Fantasy Baseball Player Spotlight. Don’t forget to check out the latest MLB injury report and the MLB top prospects report to help your fantasy baseball lineups as well.



Michael Wacha Fantasy Baseball Player Spotlight



If you don’t have Wacha on your own fantasy baseball roster or missed out on streaming him off the waiver wire, then you might not realize how good the numbers look. After giving up just two runs on five hits to the Detroit Tigers last time out, Wacha continued his surprising 2022 season. The 30-year-old boasts a 6-1 record with a 2.34 ERA and 1.04 WHIP through 12 starts. He has a 2.19 ERA across four June outings and has now allowed two runs or fewer in 10 of his 12 appearances thus far. That’s certainly valuable for fantasy baseball and it’s hard to argue with the success. 

Well, as the title of this article suggests, there may be reasons to expect some negative regression for Wacha moving forward. Subsequently, selling high on the Boston starter in trades might be a good idea. Conversely, don’t give up too much to acquire him onto your own teams in trades. 

There's no denying that Wacha is in the midst of a bounceback season for the Boston Red Sox and he’s been a very valuable waiver wire add for those who jumped aboard. However, there are a few glaring warning signs that we need to be aware of when it comes to his fantasy baseball worth the rest of the way. 

On the surface, and for fantasy baseball purposes, Wacha’s 2.34 ERA looks awesome. There’s also no denying that he’s turned in plenty of starts with only one or two runs allowed. That clearly plays well for head-to-head and roto leagues. Still, the advanced stats and predictive numbers tell a different story. 

Wacha’s 3.96 FIP, 4.44 xERA, 4.02 XFIP, and 4.37 SIERA all suggest he’s overperforming in the runs allowed department. For comparison’s sake, check out those numbers from previous seasons when his ERA was much higher than it is now. All of the predictive metrics are expecting him to regress back to the below-average level he’s been at since 2019. 


Why and how are the FIP and expected run metrics so much higher than his current ERA? Well, there are plenty of reasons actually. Wacha has an 84.5% left-on-base rate and a .227 BABIP right now. Those numbers suggest he’s getting pretty lucky when it comes to hitters having success and runners on base scoring when compared to the league average. The LOB% and BABIP are also career-best marks for the 30-year-old. Furthermore, Wacha’s 10.3% HR/FB rate is the best it’s been since 2014. His 18.5% strikeout rate is also at a career-low (tied with 2019). Check out some of those stats when directly compared to recent seasons. 





















In addition, look at how some of his advanced stats compare to the rest of MLB starting pitchers for this year. Notice all of the blue littering his Statcast profile among 2022 MLB percentile ranks. (Blue isn’t good, by the way).

You likely remember Wacha from when he was an up-and-coming prospect for the St. Louis Cardinals nearly a decade ago. As a 21-year-old rookie back in 2013, he broke onto the scene with a 2.78 ERA and even took home NLCS MVP honors as the Cards made a run to the World Series that year. He followed up that impressive rookie campaign with a 3.20 ERA in 2014 and then a 17-7 record in 2015. It was looking like Wacha would follow in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright’s footsteps as the next great starting pitcher in St. Louis. 

The right-hander then had a few up-and-down seasons from 2016 to 2019 before he left the Cardinals and signed a one-year deal with the New York Mets in 2020. In that COVID-shortened season, it was one to forget for Wacha as he struggled to a 1-4 record, 6.62 ERA, and 1.56 WHIP over eight appearances. Then he mustered a 5.05 ERA over 29 outings (23 starts) last season for the Tampa Bay Rays. Yikes! Talk about a career flip.



It was no surprise that Wacha was an afterthought heading into this 2022 season and he wasn’t even being drafted in most regular-sized fantasy baseball leagues. The guy was on his fourth different team in four years and hadn’t pitched to an ERA below 4.70 since 2018. Can you blame us for scrolling right past his name in the draft queue? 

Wacha’s struggles in the previous seasons before 2022 are impossible to ignore. Even just the difference between a 5.05 ERA in 2021 and the 2.34 mark of this season is a drastic change. If you look at Wacha’s pitch repertoire and pitch velocities, they are basically the same as they were a year ago. The one small difference is an added sinker, which has definitely been a good weapon for him in 2022. Still, it’s hard to believe the Red Sox have completely fixed Wacha’s struggles from the past few years that the Rays, Mets, and Cardinals couldn’t. 

When taking all of this into account, it becomes pretty clear how we should view Wacha moving forward. Tread lightly. If you’ve added him off waivers or are streaming him as a starting pitcher, just be cautious and know that a poor outing or two could come at any point. Maybe he continues getting lucky and survives all season with smoke and mirrors. Or maybe (probably not), the Boston starter is truly having a bounceback season and he’s returned to the All-Star caliber production we saw at the beginning of his career). 

For what it’s worth, here are some rest-of-season projections for Wacha from some notable sources (via FanGraphs.com).































Can anyone say, “regression?” 

If you do roster Wacha on your squad right now, think seriously about trading him away while his value is still pretty high. His recent outing against the Tigers has maintained his trade value for now, but upcoming starts against tougher competition could change that quickly. You can blame me or the advanced stats if Wacha keeps this up the rest of the season, but don’t count on it. You can sell high in trades right now or before the fantasy trade deadline before he has some subpar outings in the second half of the season. 

On the flip side, avoid buying too high or giving away too much in trades if you want to acquire Wacha. Maybe you need short-term help on your fantasy pitching staff or believe in his early-season success. Or maybe you want to flip Wacha for other trade pieces once you add him. Either way, don’t be fooled by his on-the-surface stats that this is one of the top MLB aces and is worth that in trades or FAAB budget. 



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