Joey Wentz is making his Detroit Tigers debut.
For the third time in less than three weeks, the Detroit Tigers are calling up one of their top pitching prospects.
The condensed schedule and weather issues mean the Tigers are in the midst of a run of 18 games in 16 days, and an unfortunate string of injuries has led to an all-hands on deck approach.
Beau Brieske was the first to arrive, and he has managed to stay afloat through three MLB starts — two of which came on the road against terrific offensive clubs. Then it was Alex Faedo’s turn. He was fairly pedestrian in his debut, but looked like a potential difference maker in his second career outing.
And now it’s time to see what Joey Wentz can do.
The Tigers should be getting healthy soon. Matt Manning already made one rehab appearance in Toledo, and Casey Mize is scheduled to start for the Mud Hens tomorrow. But until they return, Detroit needs to rely on any healthy arms they can find. So let’s see if Joey Wentz can help.
The Joey Wentz Story
Joey Wentz first drew the attention of scouts as a sophomore in high school, though he struggled a bit on the mound as a junior and briefly looked like a better prospect as a power-hitting first baseman. But he regained his form as a senior and headed into the 2016 draft as one of the best prospects in the class, ranking #26 overall to Baseball America, #19 to FanGraphs, and #16 to MLB Pipeline.
The Atlanta Braves took him with the 40th pick but gave him just over $3 million, good for the 17th highest bonus in the class. Wentz was excellent in his first full season of minor-league baseball, posting a 2.60 ERA with 152 strikeouts and 46 walks over 131.2 innings for the Low-A Rome. That was good enough to earn him top-100 prospect status at Baseball Prospectus, but other sites weren’t quite as convinced by Wentz’s average stuff.
He maintained his excellent ERA (2.28) in High-A the following season, but his strikeout rate plummeted (28.8% to 19.9%) and an oblique injury held him to just 67 innings. He saw his first sustained struggles in Double-A in 2019, posting a 4.78 ERA for Mississippi over 103 innings, and the Braves used him as the main piece in a deal to land Detroit Tigers closer Shane Greene.
Joey Wentz was stunningly effective in five post-trade outings with the Erie SeaWolves, pitching to a 2.10 ERA and 37 strikeouts to just 4 walks over 25.2 innings. It looked like the Detroit Tigers had gotten a steal, and Wentz seemed primed to make his MLB debut in 2020.
But forearm issues during spring training led to Tommy John surgery and a significant delay in Wentz’s timetable. He returned to the mound on May 25, 2021, almost 21 months after his last professional pitch.
Wentz struggled to throw strikes and put away hitters in 2021, though that isn’t terribly uncommon following Tommy John surgery, but his stuff just didn’t look very sharp in general. He look much improved in his lone outing this spring training, with a fastball that sat at 95 MPH, and his stuff has remained solid through his first five outings of the 2022 season.
What to Expect from Joey Wentz
Joey Wentz’s pure stuff is on par with that of Beau Brieske and Alex Faedo. As such, it is plenty good enough to get outs at the MLB level. The lanky Wentz comes at hitters from a high-3/4 arm slot, and he primarily works off his two fastballs. He generally tries to work his four-seamer up in the zone and keep his sinker low, and both offerings can touch 95-96 MPH early in outings before settling in the 92-94 MPH range later.
Wentz’s mid-80s changeup is his best secondary pitch. He maintains his arm speed and generally locates his change low and away to right-handed hitters, and at times it shows above-average vertical movement. He rounds out his arsenal with an inconsistent upper-70s curveball. When his breaking ball is on it shows good depth and can generate swings and misses, particularly when he keeps it low in the zone, but Wentz can sometimes lose feel for the pitch, leading to dangerous pitches that float above the zone.
The biggest issue facing Joey Wentz is poor command, which may ultimately push him to the bullpen. Wentz is not a very efficient strike thrower, often losing the zone for a batter or two at a time, and he’s prone to falling behind hitters and missing his spots, which could lead to some home run troubles.
The Oakland A’s aren’t a particularly potent offensive club, so Joey Wentz will probably miss some bats in his MLB debut. But most big league hitters can punish mistakes, and Wentz will probably make a few of those too. We expect to see some flashes of promise, but ultimately a pretty short outing featuring some crooked numbers on the board.