The Los Angeles Angels' rotation was supposed to be a bright spot in the 2023 season. They had finished with a top six ERA in all of baseball the season prior and had young pitchers seemingly on the rise like Patrick Sandoval, Reid Detmers, and even Jose Suarez surrounding ace Shohei Ohtani. Shohei held up his end of the bargain, but the young arms regressed in 2023.
One pitcher who it was hard to have any expectations for was Griffin Canning. The right-hander looked like he'd be a piece of the Angels' future rotation after a strong year in 2020, but struggles in 2021 followed by a back injury which caused him to miss the entire 2022 season had him on the outside looking in when it came to Angels rotation spots.
Canning wound up forcing his way into the team's rotation after an awesome Spring Training and carried that momentum into a really strong return season to the majors.
Griffin Canning deserves a B- for his 2023 season
Canning earned the sixth starter spot but opened the season on the IL with a groin strain. He'd return when first eligible, and immediately showed promise with five innings of two-run ball against the Nationals.
For the most part, these kinds of starts were the norm for Canning in 2023. He went at least five innings in all but four of his starts and allowed three runs or fewer in all but five of his starts (and one relief appearance). Going five or more innings and allowing three runs or fewer is the definition of keeping your team in the game. He's not an ace, but for a mid-rotation guy he was consistently solid.
Overall this season, Canning had a 4.32 ERA in 24 appearances (22 starts) and 127 innings pitched. His 6.7% walk rate was a career best for Canning, as was his 25.9% strikeout rate. Additionally, he set career highs in games, starts, and innings pitched. He did have a couple of stints on the IL, but when healthy, he was a rare stabilizing presence in a rotation that really only had Ohtani as a pitcher they could rely upon to give them a strong outing each and every time out.
The Angels head into 2024 with Canning locked into the middle of the rotation. At 27 years old with two more years of team control the right-hander is a player fans should be really excited to continue to watch and root for as he continues to grow. He came back this season and was about as good as the Angels could've hoped for. Now it's time for him to take another step.