Back in 2017, right-handed pitcher Griffin Canning, out of UCLA, went into the amateur draft ranked as the 17th best prospect by MLB.com. While he was never expected to become an ace, he brought with him a plus changeup, an above-average fastball and two tertiary pitches, a slider and a curve, that were at least expected to be average. Add above-average control and a repeatable delivery and he looked like a slam dunk to go off the board early.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the way it happened. Canning dropped all the way to 47th when the Los Angeles Angels finally grabbed him. The fall wasn’t based on poor performance, or concerns with signability, but some were concerned that he had been overused at UCLA. The Angels decided to have Canning sit out the remainder of the 2017 season and stick to a throwing program at the team’s spring training facility as a precaution.
When 2018 arrived, the Angels liked what they had seen enough to start him off in Class A Advanced, much higher than the typical initial assignment of draft picks. He threw two games, totaling 8.2 innings in which he didn’t allow a run, walked three batters, and recorded 12 strikeouts en route to a quick Double-A promotion. The promotion didn’t seem to present any major challenges, however, as he blew through the Southern League, starting 10 games (45.2 innings) while posting a 1.97 ERA and 1.007 WHIP.
His first real challenge, however, came in the form of the Pacific Coast League. The PCL is a place where a lot of pitchers’ dreams die, as it is notoriously hitter-friendly based on ballpark structure and geographic location. It didn’t go well for Canning right out of the gate, as he threw 59 innings of 5.49 ERA ball, although, it should be noted that opponents posted an absurd .376 BABIP against him while his FIP was a much more palatable 4.22.
Canning returned to Salt Lake to begin the 2019 season and made the adjustments that he needed to make en route to 16 innings of one earned run ball.
On Friday evening it was announced that Griffin Canning would make his major-league debut in front of a home crowd on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 against the Toronto Blue Jays. The 2019 rookie class is the best in recent memory with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Eloy Jimenez, Chris Paddack, and others making headlines, and now it’s Canning’s turn to try to earn himself a share of the limelight.