LA Angels: Should the Halos worry about the backend of the rotation?

Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
Los Angeles Angels
Griffin Canning, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /

How much concern should be put into spring training performances? That’s always a topic of conversation every season, and I think two Angels who will be watched closely when the regular season begins are Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning.

Both pitchers have struggled in their exhibitions and will remain as regulars in the projected six-man rotation. Heaney will pitch in the second game of the Opening Series against the White Sox on Friday, while Canning will likely be used in the following series versus Houston.

2021 Spring Training Statistics:

  • Heaney (5 games): 17 IP 19 H 14 ER 9 BB 21 SO (1.647 WHIP)
  • Canning (5 games): 14.2 IP 17 H 11 ER 10 BB 17 SO (1.901 WHIP)

The hope with any players who struggle in spring is to shake off the cobwebs and perform at a high level once the bell rings. Normally I don’t think there would be a reason for worry, but these are two pitchers who struggled at times last summer, and their spring numbers reflected similar results.

2020 Statistics:

  • Heaney (12 games): 66.2 IP 4.46 ERA 1.230 WHIP
  • Canning (11 games): 56.1 IP 3.99 ERA 1.367 WHIP

The Angels cannot afford Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning taking a step back.

Of the two starters, Canning is more of a work in progress. He’s only 24-years old, and his third MLB season will be the first time he gets an opportunity to pitch in a full 162-game stretch. Canning hasn’t been lights out, but his pitch repertoire has looked good up to this point. In his final tune-up on Monday, the right-hander’s average fastball velocity (93.8 mph) was one tick higher than his average in 2020.

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Heaney is still trying to find consistency after a few injury-plagued seasons. The 29-year-old experimented with different pitching data in the offseason to take the next steps as a dominant starter in 2021. This is also the final year of arbitration eligibility for Heaney. How well he pitches is going to determine what teams will be willing to pay when he hits the free-agent market.

Given the continued development of top prospects Reid Detmers (No.2) and Chris Rodriguez (No.4), it’s likely neither will be rushed into the starting rotation if the struggles from Canning and Heaney continue.

It’s more likely the change will come in the forms of Jaime Barria and Patrick Sandoval. Both will begin the season as long-relievers, but will be insurance if additional starters are needed.

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I don’t agree with this mindset, but to me, it’s obvious the Angels are hoping for the best with this group of starters. Owner Arte Moreno and general manager Perry Minasian did not take any risk with their play-it-safe approach in the offseason. It’s going to be asking a lot for this unproven rotation to carry the Halos into the postseason.

The offense looks like it’s going to be the team’s strength, so maybe there’s a chance they can do the heavy lifting. That production combined with a solid bullpen should be enough to get the job done if the Angels starters can keep the team in games, even if they’re not dominating.

It’ll be easier said than done, so here’s to hoping for the best.