UCLA's Canning could be quick to bigs

No. 17 Draft prospect moving up boards thanks to maturity, experience

June 9th, 2017

Griffin Canning isn't a phenom who throws 100 mph. He isn't a hulking specimen on the mound. But as everyone in baseball knows, there's more than one road to the first round of the MLB Draft.

Canning, a 21-year-old right-hander, comes straight to the 2017 Draft after serious success on the mound for UCLA. He is currently ranked the No. 17 Draft prospect on MLBPipeline.com and seems to be moving up the pre-Draft boards rapidly. That's no surprise considering he's always been a bit of a late bloomer.

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Canning played prep ball at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in the ultra-competitive Trinity League in Southern California and was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 38th round of the 2015 Draft. But Canning, a good student, was willing to be patient.

"For me personally, coming out of high school, I don't think I was ready for that 100 percent commitment just to baseball," Canning said. "You go out [to Rookie ball] right away, you're at the lowest of lows. You've got to really work your way up.

"But coming to college, you develop the best friends, you're with them every day, and then you also have school on top of that and the social life. So it was a really good decision for me and I would encourage a lot of guys to come to school and get that college experience before heading out to pro ball."

Canning has always had to prove himself. Even now, as UCLA's Friday-night ace with four pitches, he's 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, not the overpowering type. But his college coach, John Savage, is convinced that Major League teams will love what they're getting.

"He's a guy that has four pitches, his velocity has clearly spiked this season, he's hit up to 94, and he's got a curveball, slider and change," says Savage, who led UCLA to a College World Series championship in 2013. "He's pretty complete. You're talking about a guy that can hold runners, can field his position, can get left-handed hitters out. His splits are good.

"The biggest question they have is just the structure of his body, basically. … It's not a big stature, but you're talking about a guy that just can make pitches time after time and can pitch on both sides of the plate with his fastball, and you're talking about as complete a college pitcher as you'll find out there."

That maturity level is always attractive to certain Major League teams. And it's something Canning is proud of because he's put the work in.

"I think the best decision I made was coming here," Canning said recently while sitting in the stands of Jackie Robinson Stadium near the UCLA campus. "I'm going to go into an organization with a good foundation. I'm not going to be one of those guys that's going to need to be developed much.

"I think that's why you come to college, to develop a little bit. I have all my routines set, so I don't think it's going to be too much of a transition. I'm just looking to come into an organization and do whatever they ask of me, really."

Savage has seen some big names come through his program, including big leaguers , , , Rob Rasmussen and others. He says Canning knows what it means to follow in the footsteps of those pitchers, to realize the importance of learning and evolving.

"He has good makeup," Savage said. "He's a very personable guy, very professional. He knows how to go about his daily routine. He knows how to go about his business. There won't be any issues regarding selfishness or off-the-field issues. He's very clean living, I guess you could say, off the field, and he's always prepared and loves to compete.

"I think he'd be a really good teammate. He'd pick guys up after mistakes, and I think he's always there and ready to compete and always wants the ball."

Canning said he hasn't been thinking too much about the Draft. He'd rather work on his command in bullpen sessions and while playing catch, always thinking about improving.

"I'm doing my best not to focus on it," he said of June 12, when he could very well go in the first round.

"I'm just kind of taking care of my business here, helping my team in any way I can."