Fast-Rising Griffin Canning Has To Adjust On The Fly

Image credit: Griffin Canning (Photo by Ric Tapia/Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The 2018 season for Angels prospect Griffin Canning was full of learning curves.

The durable, hard-throwing righthander out of UCLA experienced his first season of professional baseball in 2018.  

A second-round pick by the Angels in June 2017, Canning, upon the request of the organization, sat out of the remainder of the 2017 season due to the heavy workload he endured in his junior season with the Bruins.

In his final season of college, Canning threw 119 innings. He was one of just four signed picks in the first three rounds who threw at least 119 innings in their college season.

When the 2018 season began, Canning, now No. 63 on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list, found himself in high Class A Inland Empire. In his first professional start, he pitched four shutout innings while striking out six in a win against San Jose on April 5.

Canning, 22, made one more appearance before getting called up to Double-A Mobile, where he made 10 starts. In 45.2 innings, he gave up only 10 earned runs for a 1.97 ERA, while striking out 49 batters and holding hitters to an .170 opponent average.

Due to his performance in Mobile, he was called up to Triple-A Salt Lake, but the story was not the same for him there. In his 13 starts for Salt Lake, he threw 59 innings and posted a 5.49 ERA.

“I just wasn’t as efficient as I wanted to be pitching-wise (with Salt Lake), so that was something I am definitely going to be working on this spring and into the season,” Canning said.

He said the difference between Double-A and Triple-A was the two-strike approach of hitters.

“I was able to put a lot more guys away in Double-A with pitches outside of the zone that I wasn’t able to get away with in Triple-A,” he said. “ It was a learning curve in where I wanted to throw my two-strike pitches and just being able to execute them.”

During the offseason, he focused on how he can improve his approach to batters in the higher league.

“In the offseason, I practiced being more aggressive in the zone and completely trusting my stuff,” Canning said.

It is common for players to go through a rough stretch. Addressing the best way to fix those problems is key.

For Canning, it involved watching a lot of film.

“Sometimes you just feel out of sync, so you watch some video and looking at a time you were doing well and seeing if there was something you were doing differently,” he said.

Regardless, he thinks that is the fun part of the game, seeing where you went wrong and working every day to improve.

“That is the fun part of the game because you always want to be improving and reach your best potential,” he said. “So it is just another thing to push you.”

It was not all negatives for him in 2018 as he saw tremendous growth and rose through the Angels’ minor league system.

“I moved up the system pretty quickly, but that is why I went to school, so I could kind of come into a system and hopefully get pushed up quick,” he said. “I was able to meet a lot of different guys, a lot of different coaches. I was able to pick up stuff from a variety of people.”

As far as spring training, Canning is just embracing the learning experience.

“I am not really putting any expectations on myself,” he said. “I just want to stay healthy and get ready for the season. At the same, I also want to get out and compete and prove myself. I never have really had the chance to face established big-league hitters, so I think it will be a good challenge.”

Stephen Perez is a senior majoring in sports journalism at Arizona State University. This story is a part of a partnership between Sports Illustrated and Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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