Texarkana's Michael Wacha has a big year ahead of him with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Wacha, the Pleasant Grove Hawk graduate, burst onto the professional baseball scene back in 2013, and helped the Cardinals reach the World Series. He is now getting ready for the upcoming season with the rest of the team down in Florida for spring training.

To say this is an important season for Wacha, might be an understatement. Wacha pitched about a half season for the Red Birds in that rookie season in 2013. He was nothing short of a phenom and was a major reason the team made it to the series.

In 2014, his season was shortened by an unusual shoulder injury. As the 2015 season approached, there were concerns and questions about how well he would recover and whether the problem would resurface. Fortunately it did not, as Wacha started off red hot and pitched as well as anyone in the league through the first half of the season. His efforts, along with other Cardinal hurlers, helped lead the team to a major league best 100 victories and the National League Central title.

However, Wacha appeared to tire late in the season, as the innings mounted up and his earned run average per game started to climb. This was likely due to the fact that really the 2015 season was his first year to actually pitch the entire season with the big club. This led to what many experts speculate was some arm fatigue, which is not unusual with heavily used pitchers.

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This is why I believe heading into the 2016 season, it is a critical year for Wacha. He should be more accustomed to pitching a full year and his arm and shoulder should be stronger. Another big year for the 6' 6" tall righty could cement his status long term in St. Louis and in Major League Baseball. With the potential of free agency just a few years down the road, a big year this year could provide Wacha with a big payday when free agent time roles around.

The Cardinals will be pushed this year by the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central. If the team is going to compete for a World SerIes title, Wacha needs to have a huge season.

Here's hoping the former Pleasant Grove Hawk and Texas A&M star shines brightly this season in St. Louis. All his Texarkana fans will be watching closely.