Athleticism Helps Joey Wentz Excel

For the second straight summer, low Class A Rome has an embarrassment of riches on the mound.

Among those are lefthander Joey Wentz, who has put together one of the most consistent seasons among any starting pitcher in the South Atlantic League this year. Selected with the 4oth overall pick out of a Kansas high school in 2016, the 6-foot-5 southpaw allowed two earned runs or fewer in 14 of his first 17 starts to rank among the league’s top 10 in ERA.

His performance has exceeded the Braves’ expectations through his first year as a professional. A two-sport standout at Shawnee Mission East High, Wentz battled a dead arm throughout the latter part of his amateur career that saw his fastball velocity drop to the upper 80s. He also struggled with his control in Rookie ball, issuing 25 walks in 44 innings last summer.

At Rome, the 19-year-old Wentz has pounded the strike zone with his fastball, late-breaking curveball and improving changeup. His fastball has resided in the low 90s and possesses impressive armside run down in the strike zone. Combine that with his ability to pitch downhill by using his height to his advantage and he had allowed only one home run, while striking out 92, through his first 82.1 innings.

“Everything has been going great,” Wentz said. “Last year, the first half-season was all about getting acclimated, being in a new place and on your own for the first time. Now I feel like I’m able to make adjustments and learn from my mistakes.”

Scouts love Wentz’s easy mechanics and ability to repeat his delivery consistently. While the pitcher credits his athleticism on the mound to his extended activity in basketball, the Braves are being careful with the amount of work he and the other young Rome hurlers are accumulating this summer. Wentz, for example, worked every sixth or seventh day in his first four starts after the SAL all-star break, which should limit the wear and tear during his first full season.

“I love what I’m doing now,” said Wentz. “Growing up, there were times when I played more basketball in the summer than baseball. It didn’t take long to realize that it was never going to work out.

“As I went through my teenage years, I realized baseball was what I was good at. It became a dream, but it was also a goal. Now we’re at a level where everyone feels it’s attainable, everyone can see themselves playing in the big leagues.”

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