Michael Wacha’s Fantasy Fit In San Diego

In San Diego, Michael Wacha has a chance to build on his 2022 success.

After a two-year stint in the American League East, one that included season-long stops with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2021 and with the Boston Red Sox in 2022, Michael Wacha is changing divisions. He’s also changing leagues, and coasts of the country as well for that matter, heading to the National League West to join the San Diego Padres after signing with the club as a free agent.

Wacha is coming off his best season in the Majors in years and now has signed with the Padres on what’s reportedly a multi-year deal, per a tweet from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal on February 16. Per Rosenthal’s tweet, the deal reportedly comes with a variety of different options, including club options for the 2024 and 2025 campaigns as well as three potential player options.

Rewinding to Wacha’s 2022 season with the Red Sox, the veteran logged a 3.32 ERA and a 4.14 FIP to go along with 104 strikeouts and 34 walks allowed in 127.1 innings of work as a member of Boston’s rotation. He provided plenty of value to fantasy managers, not just with the rather low ERA, but also with the 11 pitcher wins, the most the right-hander has logged in a season since the 2017 campaign.

And while pitcher wins can be fickle for starters from year to year—it’s just the nature of the metric—there was plenty that Wacha did well in Boston last year that could translate nicely to his new home in San Diego, especially in Petco Park.


Michael Wacha In 2022


Wacha found plenty of success last season with a recipe that largely included limiting hard contact and walks. The veteran finished in the 70th percentile or better in both hard-hit rate (70th percentile) and walk rate (79th percentile).

Once again throwing his four-seamer and changeup most of the time, the veteran dialed back on his cutter usage just a bit in 2022. The offering was one of three pitches, along with the aforementioned four-seamer and changeup, that the veteran utilized with regularity as a member of the Rays during the 2021 season. With Boston, his sinker saw an uptick in usage, which certainly helped in terms of limiting hard contact and walks.

Michael Wacha’s Pitch Usage In 2021 vs 2022

Opponents hit just .213 with a .235 wOBA, a .332 xwOBA, and a 31.6% hard-hit rate against Wacha’s sinker last season. Sinkers, for many pitchers, oftentimes have rather unideal-looking stat lines against them, especially when compared to some offspeed offerings. But among pitchers who threw at least 240 sinkers last year, only 18 had a lower hard-hit rate on their sinker than the now former Red Sox pitcher. Furthermore, among those 18 pitchers, only six were full-time starters. Those six? Taijuan Walker, Brandon Woodruff, Alek Manoah, George Kirby, and Zack Wheeler.

The effectiveness of the pitch certainly helped Wacha find success at Fenway Park, a ballpark with the league’s third-highest overall Park Factor in the last three seasons, per Statcast. Though admittedly, his FIP metrics are a bit closer than his ERA splits.

Michael Wacha’s 2022 Home and Road Splits


The Fantasy Fit With Michael Wacha and the Padres


Ultimately, Wacha’s ability to prevent hard-hit contact should benefit him greatly in his new home. While the Red Sox’ home park is certainly very much a hitter-friendly venue, the Padres’ Petco Park had the sport’s second-lowest park factor in the last three seasons per Statcast.

Ultimately, with a contending Padres team, the veteran should also have the opportunities to replicate—or at least come close to replicating—his pitcher win total from his season in Boston. Though it is worth noting that San Diego isn’t hurting for other rotation options, with Wacha, Seth Lugo, and Nick Martinez on hand after the trio of Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, and Blake Snell.

This is purely speculative, but given the options in Wacha’s contract – per Rosenthal’s tweet, the team options for 2024 and 2025 are for $16 million each – it seems like the right-hander will be a rotation mainstay in San Diego unless he struggles mightily.

Still, given the new fantasy surroundings – specifically Petco Park – struggles shouldn’t be too much of an issue as long as Wacha continues to limit hard contact and walks like he did last season.

The veteran starter should certainly be in consideration for fantasy managers in search of rotation options at the tail end of drafts given his upside to provide weekly value in terms of pitcher wins and ERA production.


Photo by Allan Dranberg/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Ben Rosener

Ben Rosener is baseball and fantasy baseball writer whose work has previously appeared on the digital pages of Motor City Bengals, Bleacher Report, USA Today, FanSided.com and World Soccer Talk among others. He also writes about fantasy baseball for RotoBaller and the Detroit Tigers for his own Patreon page, Getting You Through the Tigers Rebuild (@Tigers_Rebuild on Twitter). He only refers to himself in the third person for bios.

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