School: UCLA; Class: Junior
Position: RHP; B/T: R/R
Height: 6-2; Weight: 180
Previously Drafted: Colorado Rockies, 38th round, 2014
Background: A late round pick of the Rockies following a dominant senior season Santa Margarita High School after he led the school to the 2014 CIF SS Division I Championship. Canning, a slight-framed 6-foot-2, 180-pound right-hander, is just the latest promising prospect to come out of the Bruins pitching factory over the past several seasons.
He began his collegiate career with bang, throwing 63.2 innings while fanning 66 and walking just six as a true freshman. The hard-throwing California native finished the season with a 7-1 record to go along with a 2.97 ERA. His walk rate, 0.84 BB/9, was easily the best mark on the club. Canning followed that up with another solid year: in 15 starts with UCLA, he threw 109.1 innings of work – an increase of nearly 75% – with an impeccable 95-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio, though he was hampered by a bit of bad luck as he posted a 3.70 ERA. Once again, his walk rate, 1.73 BB/9, paced the school’s pitching staff by a wide margin; he topped runner-up Kyle Molnar by nearly 0.50 BB/9. This season, Canning has put together his finest season to date: through his first 15 starts, he’s thrown 102.1 innings, struck out 124 (10.91 K/9), walked just 28 (2.46 BB/9), and his ERA has rebounded nicely (2.55).
For his career, he’s thrown 275.1 innings to go along with 285 strikeouts, just 55 walks, and a 3.11 ERA with a 18-12 record.
Projection: Consider the following career comparisons between Canning and some ex-Bruins pitchers:
Canning’s numbers don’t come close to the dominance of Cole and Bauer, who were drafted with the first and third overall picks in the 2011 draft. But his peripherals are significantly better than Kaprielian, who was the Yankees top pick, 16th overall, in the 2015 draft. But let’s take it a step further and compare each of the aforementioned hurlers’ final season at the school:
Again, we see Canning’s numbers compare favorably to all three previous early first round picks. His strikeout rate ranks second and his walk rate third among the group. So, let’s take it one more step further. Consider the following little nugget:
- Between 2011 and 2016, only 15 pitchers have recorded a season in which they’ve averaged at least 10.5 K/9 and walked fewer than 2.5 BB/9 (minimum 100 innings pitched): Mark Appel, Trevor Bauer, Brandon Finnegan, Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney, Danny Hultzen, Eric Lauer, Taylor Clarke, Alex Faedo, Mike Shawaryn, Seth Varner, Tyler Wilson, Keegan Akin, Cory Mazzoni, David Middendorf.
Canning, of course, would be the 16th of the group if the season ended at the time of this writing.
The current Bruin ace misses an impressive amount of bats, limits walks (though it’s been trending in the wrong direction in each of the past two seasons), and he has a lengthy history of success at a top school. Judging by history, he’s likely to find his way into the Top 15 or so picks come June. Canning has the potential to develop into a #2-type pitcher – if everything goes well. At worst, he looks like a nice, safe mid-rotation caliber arm.
Ceiling: 3.5-win player
Floor: 2.0-win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
Grade: First Round