Here's why Detroit Tigers prospect Joey Wentz 'fits right in' with other top arms
It’s still too early to say for certain. But it looks like the Detroit Tigers might have found somebody special “with a high ceiling” in the Shane Greene trade.
The Tigers sent Greene to the Atlanta Braves on July 31 for left-handed pitcher Joey Wentz and outfielder Travis Demeritte.
Immediately fans freaked out: Why are they getting all this pitching? Why don’t they bring in more bats? Why didn’t they get more prospects? I understand all of those questions. They are valid concerns, although you can never have too much pitching. At some point, they could flip some of these pitchers for bats.
But that’s a different discussion.
For now, let’s just focus on Wentz, who did nothing but impress during a short stint with the Erie SeaWolves, the Tigers' Double-A affiliate. In five games at Erie, Wentz had 37 strikeouts and walked just four in 25⅔ innings, putting together a fantastic 2.10 ERA and 0.935 WHIP.
He threw 5⅓ innings Saturday, his final game of the season, against Akron, striking out 10 while walking just one.
“He’s 21 years old and runs it up to 94 miles an hour,” Erie manager Mike Rabelo said. “Big frame. Big, high three-quarters arm slot. Hard worker. Quiet kid. High ceiling.”
Wentz is ranked as the Tigers' No.10 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, behind No.1 Casey Mize, No.2 Matt Manning, No.4 Tarik Skubal and No.9 Alex Faedo.
“As soon as he got here, he fits right in with Tarik and Casey and Matt and Alex, all those guys,” Rabelo said.
Wentz became comfortable quickly.
“I definitely didn’t think this is here I was going to be, six months ago, when spring training started in Orlando (with the Braves),” Wentz said. “But I’m happy to be in this organization. We have a lot of winners here and guys who want to win games and that’s exciting.”
No stranger to the Olde English D
Wentz, who was drafted out of high school in the first round in 2016, grew up in Kansas City. “So I saw the Tigers a lot,” he said. “They always went down to Kansas City to play the Royals. I grew up going to a ton of games, so I’m familiar with the Tigers.”
Wentz was the No. 7 prospect in the Braves' organization when he was traded and had a 1.311 WHIP in 20 starts for the Braves' Double-A affiliate.
“I wasn’t really surprised about the trade,” he said. “Everyone knew the Braves wanted to go get some good players and obviously Shane Greene is a really good player. I was in the hotel, waiting to get on the bus to go to the game. Saw it on Twitter. Then, got a phone call.”
He said he received phone calls from general manager Al Avila and Dave Littlefield, the Tigers' vice president of player development.
“They welcomed me to the organization and are happy to have me,” Wentz said. “It’s exciting."
The Tigers assigned Wentz to Erie and the first player he met with was Chace Numata, the team’s catcher who died Monday from injuries after a skateboard accident. “When I got to Erie, I was the first one to the park that day,” Wentz said. “I was bored, in my hotel room and thought, ‘Why not go to the park?’
"Numi was the first guy to come up to me. He was full of good, positive energy. It sucks. He was a great person.”
Working on the breaking ball
Wentz has three pitches: a fastball, a changeup and, well, some sort of breaking ball — “He has a curve-slider thing,” Rabelo said. “I just call it the slurve.”
Wentz plans to spend the offseason working on that breaking ball, trying to make it more of a slider, or more of a curve.
“I grip it and throw it,” he said. “I’ll probably work this offseason on it, trying to distinguish one or the other. It’s kind of in-between. But I can throw it for strikes and throw it out of the zone. It’s been effective for me. But I’ll try this offseason to throw a slider or a curveball.
“My goal every offseason is to get better every day. I have a few things in mind, that I want to accomplish. I’m excited to get back next year and keep working, and hopefully, God willing, make it up to the big club and try to win a lot of games.”
That sounds a lot like Mize and Manning and all the other pitchers in the organization.
“It’s a bunch of talented, hard working people," Wentz said. "Just fun people to be around. They welcomed me, the first time I walked into the clubhouse. Obviously, what they do on the mound speaks for itself. It’s a great group of guys.”
And it’s a growing group, now that Wentz has joined the organization.
The Toledo Mud Hens are going to have a heck of a rotation next year — early in the season at least.
At that point, any one of these pitchers will be just a phone call away from Detroit.
Contact Jeff Seidel: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.