Detroit Tigers: Could Joey Wentz be a rotation mainstay?
By Jacob Boes
Detroit Tigers left-handed starter Joey Wentz has been excellent since returning to the major league club
Tuesday night, Joey Wentz will make his sixth start for the Detroit Tigers against the Kansas City Royals in his latest tryout for 2023. The sample thus far has been small in Detroit, but early signs give Wentz a strong case to be an integral part of the club next season, perhaps even as a member of the starting rotation.
Count me among those who felt Wentz had a bullpen future. It isn’t a knock; in fact, I felt there was back-end/leverage upside with his stuff. There is a lot that remains to be seen, but Wentz has already surpassed what I felt he would be able to accomplish in a starting role.
Many years throughout his minor league career, Wentz’s walk rates were tolerable for a starting pitcher, especially given his strong strikeout numbers. However, 2021 was a year of inconsistency and he would ultimately average north of five walks per nine innings pitched between Lakeland and Erie. That rate regressed to 3.7 in the minors in 2022 and is now averaging just 2.3 walks per nine innings pitched at the MLB level.
His success comes in large part thanks to a cutter he has recently added to the arsenal–a pitch that offers a different look to his otherwise very vertical arsenal (fastball, changeup, curveball). According to Statcast, opponents are hitting just .143 against Wentz’s cutter this season; a weapon he has been able to distribute fairly evenly to righties and lefties and is now his primary secondary pitch over his changeup, which has been a pitch exclusively thrown to right-handed batters.
Wentz is just the latest success story of arms who have had unexpected success for the Detroit Tigers this season. Beau Brieske, Alex Faedo, Matt Manning, Jason Foley, and Will Vest have all been pleasant surprises for the club, but with injuries, the starting rotation picture remains in flux for next season.
Assuming Tarik Skubal, Spencer Turnbull, and Beau Brieske are ready (which may be a stretch at this point), Rodriguez and Wentz or Manning could round out the rotation in theory, with Alex Faedo, Garrett Hill, and Tyler Alexander for depth. This assumes, of course, there are no roster changes between then and now in an offseason that has already been forecasted as a busy one by manager A.J. Hinch and President of Baseball Operations Scott Harris.
Wentz looks to do more of the same against Kansas City Tuesday night in his latest rotation deposition–in his last start against the Royals on Sept. 9 in Kansas City, Wentz went 6.2 innings of scoreless baseball, walking one and striking out five.