With the All-Star break approaching and Griffin Canning struggling to put together consistently good starts, Joe Maddon and the Los Angeles Angels felt it was best to option him to Triple-A. The hope was that he would take time to work on his mechanics and come back stronger, while 25-year old right-handed pitcher Andrew Wantz got a shot in the big leagues.
Wantz was a relatively unknown starter-reliever hybrid in the Angels organization. In 2019, he struggled at the Double-A level and was demoted to High-A Inland Empire shortly after. When the pandemic hit and the 2020 Minor League season was canceled, Wantz was unsure if he would get another shot. He spent the year off giving pitching lessons and working on his mechanics, eventually adding a cutter to his pitch repertoire.
Then, at the start of the 2021 season, the UNC-Greensboro alumni was given a chance at the Triple-A level, where he dominated. In 25.2 innings, Wantz held an ERA of 2.10 and a 1.013 WHIP. He also drastically improved his K-to-BB ratio to 4.17.
Maddon spoke about what he saw in Wantz when he first got to the Angels and what he could potentially provide for the team moving forward, according to Sam Blum of The Athletic:
“Guys that can come and be this middle bridge are becoming very popular,” Maddon said. “And if you can be that guy, and be a neutral guy that gets out both sides of the plate, better yet. I think he’s smart enough to know to just go pitch and let the chips fall where they may.”
This was exactly the role that Wantz’s college coach — Link Jarrett — saw for him in the Major Leagues.
“The value for him is probably what I would hope the Angels see. He’s very resilient and bounces back and has no problem coming into the middle or early part of the game. The value of that capability on a college team, and now a major-league level, is priceless.”
Wantz has now been with the Angels for a little over one week, and in that time he’s found his way into one game. This is likely due to the fact that the Angels have played only close games in the week he’s been up, and Maddon already has trusted high-leverage relievers.
In that one appearance, though, Wantz pitched 1.2 innings and allowed just one hit, zero walks or runs, and struck out two. With that type of production, it’s possible that he’s something more than just a short-term option in replacement of Canning.
Perry Minasian discusses draft strategy
With the MLB Draft coming up, Angels general manager Perry Minasian spoke about what the team’s mindset is heading into draft day. He kept his cards very close to his chest, saying that he is simply looking for hard workers who love baseball, and is not putting too much stock into positional needs.
Despite that, he said that every team could benefit from more pitching, which is something they’ll keep in mind as they make their selections.