Only one baseball player from a Trinity League high school was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels, and then went on to play for their big league club.
That list is expected to double in size in the near future, and it won’t be the first time Griffin Canning and Mike Witt were paired together.
Witt, a former Servite pitching star who went on to earn the fourth-most victories in Angels history, was the varsity pitching coach at Santa Margarita when Canning played for the Eagles from 2012-14.
Since then, Canning ripped through three seasons at UCLA, was drafted by the Angels in the second round last year, and the right-hander has already ascended to the highest level of their minor-league system, putting him at the doorstep of an Angels call up.
“It’s a constant process of trying to reach your full potential,” Griffin told the OC Register before the draft last year. “Even though you might never reach it, that’s what baseball’s all about: keeping on the right track and trying to get better every day.”
Canning’s only imperfection over the years has been his size. At 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, he doesn’t stand out on the rubber. Canning barely weighed 150 pounds when Witt began coaching him at the start of his sophomore year.
That didn’t prevent Canning from leading the Eagles in innings pitched his first season on varsity, finishing 4-7 with a 2.30 ERA and five complete games.
UCLA coach John Savage came to watch Canning that season. He only needed to see Canning play long toss and throw one inning to recognize he was special.
“I saw his athleticism, his easiness to repeat,” Savage told the Daily Bruin student newspaper. “I saw upside of that pitching ability.”
Canning went 5-2 with a 1.79 ERA as a junior at Santa Margarita, leading the Eagles into the CIF-SS quarterfinals.
That just boosted Canning’s motivation for his senior year.
Witt, who the Angels drafted in the fourth round out of Servite in 1978, was in the dugout when Canning threw a complete game at Dodger Stadium to lead Santa Margarita to a 3-1 win against Foothill in the 2014 CIF-SS Division 1 championship, his final high school game.
Shortly afterward, Canning was drafted in the 38th round by the Colorado Rockies. Heading to UCLA instead of signing a pro contract was an easy decision, however.
Canning continued to improve with the Bruins, finishing as the sixth pitcher in team history to accumulate more than 300 strikeouts for his career.
Canning began the 2018 minor-league season at High-A Inland Empire. He quickly proved too dominant for that level and was promoted to Double-A Mobile. In 10 games with the BayBears, Canning went 1-0 with a 1.97 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings.
Canning was promoted to Triple-A Salt Lake on June 21 and showed no signs of hitting a wall, pitching four scoreless innings that night in his debut with the Bees, allowing just two hits and striking out six in the 6-3 victory against the visiting Tacoma Rainiers.
Though it seems unlikely Canning will be called up to the majors this season, the Angels are running out of options on their pitching staff. Nine pitchers were on the disabled list as of June 22, including six starters.
As has become the norm with Canning, don’t ever count him out.