Detroit Tigers top 30 prospects for 2023: No. 13 Joey Wentz
Detroit Tigers LHP Joey Wentz checks in at no. 13 on our 2023 Detroit Tigers top 30 prospects list
We continue to carve out our Detroit Tigers 2023 top prospects with left-handed pitcher Joey Wentz checking in at 13th on our list. Wentz, acquired in the Al Avila era as part of the Shane Greene trade with Atlanta, has positioned himself for a legitimate shot at a starting rotation spot this spring.
Perhaps a minor spoiler alert, Wentz will be the top left-handed arm in our rankings and it's for good reason, especially as of late. Wentz, now 25, made his major league debut with the Detroit Tigers in 2022; starting seven games while supplying a 3.03 ERA and averaging 7.4 strikes per nine, 3.6 walks per nine, and just 6.4 hits per nine over his 32 innings of work.
Wentz went to the Arizona Fall League and did more of the same against some of the game's premier young talent. In three starts and 12 innings, Wentz did not allow a run; giving up just two hits while striking out 14 against four walks. Small sample, sure, but when paired with his consistent big league work, it's cause for optimism for the former first round pick in 2016.
For Wentz, his evolution comes in part thanks to a cutter; a pitch that has complimented his largely vertical arsenal nicely. In addition to Wentz's cutter, he throws a four-seamer, changeup, and a curveball which nears 12-6 action. Opponents hit just .179 against his cutter in 2022 with an expected batting average that suggests bad luck (.167).
Old school baseball would suggest that Wentz needed his cutter to be able to get inside on right-handed batters, but he's actually thrown the pitch on the outer third most consistently, or inside to left-handers to punish batters who bail. The results have been largely positive and it now takes Wentz from an erratic guy that likely ends up in the bullpen to a guy who has a legitimate chance to make the club's starting rotation out of spring training.
It remains to be seen if this is truly the real Joey Wentz. He is not far removed from Tommy John surgery and control issues that burned his stock--Wentz averaged 5.1 walks per nine innings in 2021 across 18 starts. Wentz likewise does not possess the velocity typically required by starters in today's game, so he'll need a crafty lefty's sequencing and location to help him weave through lineups consistently a second and third time through.
Even still, Wentz's Fastball/Curveball/Changeup mix would be welcomed in a bullpen that is fairly short on left-handed arms save mop-up man Tyler Alexander. If Wentz does not crack the rotation in 2023, it's still feasible he makes the bullpen, where perhaps his fastball might find a little extra juice in shorter stints.