Watch Mickey Jannis, baseball's next knuckleballing wonder, in the Arizona Fall League
Watch Mickey Jannis, baseball's next knuckleballer
With Steven Wright firmly establishing himself in the Major Leagues this past season, pitching 72 2/3 innings with a 4.09 ERA, knuckleball enthusiasts rejoiced. After all, the more knuckleballs dancing and floating up to the plate as if they were powered by fizzy lifting drink, the better.
But for some, there was anxiety. After all, who would be the next knuckleballer to step up and join the secret cabal? Because there must always be at least one pitcher in the big leagues who is able to pass on the ancient secrets to another generation.
Enter Mickey Jannis, a former 44th-round Draft selection of the Rays who, like all knucklers, started his career as a traditional pitcher. After being released from the team in 2011 and bouncing around the independent leagues, going from teams like the Lake Erie Crushers and the Bridgeport Bluefish to even the Brisbane Bandits in the Australian Baseball League, Jannis finally turned to his knuckleball.
Signed by the Mets earlier this year after he posted a 1.83 ERA with the Long Island Ducks, Jannis worked his way up to Double-A before heading over to the Arizona Fall League to square off against some of the best prospects in the game. Entering Saturday night, the knuckleballer had a 1.88 ERA in five starts.
While he wasn't quite so sharp while facing the Rafters on Saturday, surrendering four runs (three earned) in five innings, Jannis still fooled batters with his diving, darting knuckler as he racked up three strikeouts.
A knuckleballer's journey to the Majors is never easy, as they must go through a Joseph Campbell-like hero's journey of self discovery before felling great club-swinging beasts who can crush 95-mph pitches a great distance with a ball that simply foxtrots on its way to the plate. Given Jannis' performance this year in the Arizona Fall League, this former 44th-round pick may find himself nearing the end of that story as he tries to force the Mets' hand next spring.