Ever since Billy Eppler has taken over as the LA Angels general manager, he has preached patience in every aspect of the job, but notably with prospects.
At the beginning, this was because the LA Angels didn’t have prospects worth bringing up. Furthermore, they definitely didn’t have anyone worth rushing. However, things have changed within this Angels’ organization, and there are players that are ready in the minors.
And Griffin Canning is one of them.
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The former second round pick absolutely blazed through the Halo’s minor league system last year, finishing up in Triple-A Salt Lake City. While his numbers there (5.49 ERA in 13 starts) were not good, the accomplishment of being there ignited confidence in the UCLA alumni.
Across the internet, Canning was a consensus Top 100 prospect, landing at #63 by both Baseball America and the MLB, while being bumped up to #56 by Baseball Prospectus. That was before this season, and while it’s a small sample size, there may need to be an adjustment of Canning’s spot.
While he struggled his way to a 13.50 ERA in Spring Training, there is no need to overreact to that number. Pitchers, especially ones who rely so much on swing-and-miss, often struggle in Tempe during Spring Training. I mean, remember Shohei Ohtani‘s Spring Training? I think he ended up just fine.
To prove his Spring Training stats were an outlier, the 22-year old has made two starts in Salt Lake already this season. In those starts, he has shown every ounce of his potential, absolutely fooling opposing hitters and allowing only two runs (one earned) in ten innings. In his first start, he had ten swing-and-miss strikes on 74 pitches, showcasing what he can bring to an MLB rotation.
And that is major potential as a strikeout artist. Justin Russo of the Settle Down Podcast made a thread of Canning’s ten swinging strikes from that start, and it is every bit as beautiful as one could hope.
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The most encouraging part of this is that Canning did not just fool batters with one pitch, but instead his entire arsenal. He brings a variety of pitches that he uses with confidence.
With Chris Stratton and Matt Harvey struggling in the Angels’ rotation, it might be time for Eppler to finally accelerate some of these prospects. I understand potentially stunting their growth as ball players is a risk, but this Angels team, unlike in years past, is a genuinely good ball club capable of winning games.
Not right this second, or maybe not even till June, but the Angels need Griffin Canning in Anaheim. When Justin Upton and Shohei Ohtani come back to stabilize and inconsistent offense, the focus will turn to the rotation and their inefficiencies.
Whether the Angels fix that problem now or later, the answer is in Griffin Canning. He is the brightest young pitcher the Halos have had in years sans Ohtani. The Angels need pitching, starting pitching.
And Griffin Canning is one hell of a starting pitcher.