In John Savage’s 12 years as the head coach, UCLA has a history of developing elite college starting pitching, including first-round picks Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer and James Kaprielian.
With the 2017 college baseball season underway, UCLA has another potential first-round hurler in junior right-hander Griffin Canning. MLB.com ranks Canning as the 39th-best prospect in June’s MLB First-Year Player Draft.
As a high school senior, Canning went through the draft process, but remained loyal to his college commitment. He fell to the 38th round when the Colorado Rockies selected him in the 2014 draft.
Content with his decision to attend UCLA instead of heading straight into pro ball, Canning will likely be an early round selection if he performs up to expectations this spring. But like other high-profile draft prospects, he’s leaving the draft pressure for others to worry about.
“I’m not too worried about it,” said Canning about the draft “It’s going to take care of itself. I’ve handled all the stuff already in terms of talking to the scouts. Now it’s just my time to play baseball and put that all behind me.”
A 6-foot-1, 170-pound righty, Canning has a four-pitch mix, featuring a mid-90s fastball, a changeup, curveball and slider. An undersized hurler, he can throw all four of his pitches for strikes.
Even though he believes his best trait is his control, Canning spent the off-season trying to improve it after posting a 3.70 ERA as a sophomore with UCLA in 2016.
“I am a command pitcher,” Canning said. “Last year, I wouldn’t say my command was off. I just left pitches up and paid for it. I need to make sure my misses are down. Just working a little harder.”
Canning could’ve pitched in the prestigious Cape Cod League last summer, but after throwing 109 1/3 innings as a sophomore in 2016, he decided against it.
“It wasn’t an easy decision for me,” said Canning about turning down the offer to play in the Cape. “But just as a sophomore in college, I felt like I had a good workload during the season. I just wanted to focus on getting more physical (during the off-season).”
One of UCLA’s team captains, Canning isn’t focused on his individual success this season. Instead, he hopes to continue to grow as a pitcher, while also having a memorable junior season by leading UCLA to a national championship.
“Make it to Omaha, Neb. (for the College World Series),” said Canning of his No. 1 goal this season. “I wouldn’t say have too many personal goals. A lot of my goals tie into the team goals. Anything I can do to help the team win is my biggest goal.”
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