After several days of rampant speculation, the St. Louis Cardinals have made it official and announced that highly touted pitching prospect Michael Wacha will be the starter in Thursday's game against the Royals.
The Cardinals initially appeared reluctant to call upon Wacha just yet. But with injuries to Jake Westbrook, Jaime Garcia and John Gast -- not to mention Chris Carpenter -- the options to add to the big-league club had grown thin.
Wacha, a 21-year-old right-hander, was drafted in the first round (19th overall) out of Texas A&M last June. Since then, he has dominated the minors. In 21 innings last season, ranging from Rookie ball to Double-A, Wacha had a 0.86 ERA, 0.57 WHIP and 40 strikeouts in 21 innings. In nine starts for Triple-A Memphis this season, Wacha is 4-0 with a 2.05 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 34 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings. Note that this comes in the notoriously hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, too.
Wacha was the 76th-ranked prospect in baseball by Baseball America this spring, but his outstanding performance in Triple-A means he'd have leapfrogged plenty of players since then (UPDATE: Actually, ESPN.com's Keith Law posted an updated top-25 prospects on Tuesday, and Wacha is No. 24).