My #NotAScout take on Tsuyoshi Wada’s debut last night: for the most part, I saw the guy I thought I would see, and the guy I was realistically hoping to see.
As a command pitcher who has to work with deception and location, I didn’t expect Wada to miss a ton of bats, and, for the most part, he didn’t. That’s one of the biggest differences between AAA and MLB: deception and game-planning just don’t induce as many whiffs as they did in the minors for you. Instead, commanding raw stuff (and having big velocity on your fastball) tend to rule the day. That’s why I’d expect to see Wada’s huge minor league K rate fall way off in the big leagues.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful as a soft-tosser in the bigs, and Wada hinted at being that guy, showing very good command, and working down in the zone. That said, the third time through the order, we started to see a lot more solid contact off of Wada. That’s typical of most pitchers, but what concerned me a little is that it came on what looked like good pitches. Many of those were converted into outs, and Wada did manage to limit the damage after loading the bases with nobody out in the 5th. The Reds put the ball in play off of Wada, and the defense behind him did their thing.
Extreme and amazing example:
Wada’s reaction pretty much sums it up.
Interestingly, though, that was not a bad pitch. Yes, Wada missed his spot laterally, but he kept the ball down and away … and Todd Frazier still ripped it. Is that just a good hitter being a good hitter, or is that a bad sign? For the most part, I say: it’s just one pitch.
All three of Wada’s strikeouts last night were of the swinging variety (that’s good), but all three were fastballs up in the zone (you can see them here in MLB’s highlight package). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Wada was elevating and changing the batter’s eye level effectively. If that’s the only consistent way he can miss bats, though, I wonder if/when big league batters start sitting on that elevated fastball when he gets to a strikeout count. Super small sample there, though.
Which brings me back to my early sense of what Wada is, and what he can be: a guy who doesn’t walk anyone (the only walk he gave up last night was to the first batter of the game – understandable), and generally tries to induce weak contact and relies on his defense can be a solid 5th starter in the big leagues. You’d like to see a guy like that get a few more groundballs than Wada tends to, because his style will lend itself to the occasional stinker (likely thanks to a spate of homers in a given game). But, based on what I saw last night – coupled with what I saw in Spring Training, and the little bit of info you can get from his AAA results – Wada could be a big league arm for a few years. I don’t think you’ll see him regularly doing what he did last night, in terms of results, but he could keep a good team in the ballgame regularly.
Is that a fit for the Cubs going forward? We’ll see. Wada will have to fight to get a rotation spot after the All-Star break, given the presence of Jake Arrieta, Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood, presently followed by Dallas Beeler and Kyle Hendricks. Then you’ve got Dan Straily at AAA, together with Chris Rusin and Eric Jokisch.