Left-hander Joey Wentz is being called up to start the Tigers’ game against the A’s on Wednesday, Tigers manager A.J. Hinch told reporters (including Evan Petzold of The Detroit Free Press). It will be the first career Major League appearance for Wentz, the 40th overall pick of the 2016 draft.
The Braves selected Wentz in that draft, but dealt the southpaw to Detroit as part of the Shane Greene trade in July 2019. Wentz had run into some struggles at Double-A that season, but the deal was still seen as a nice score for the then-rebuilding Tigers, as Wentz was a well-regarded young starter. Baseball Prospectus even ranked Wentz as the 45th-best prospect in all of baseball prior to the 2018 campaign.
However, injuries took a toll, as Wentz underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2020. Returning to action in May 2021, Wentz logged a 4.50 ERA over 72 combined innings with the Tigers’ A-ball and Double-A affiliates. Making his Triple-A debut this season, Wentz has a 4.12 ERA and a 33.8% strikeout rate in 19 2/3 innings for the Toledo Mud Hens, though his 13% walk rate and 25% homer rate are cause for concern.
Baseball America rates the 24-year-old Wentz as the ninth-best prospect in Detroit’s farm system, while MLB Pipeline has the left-hander 12th on its list. Wentz’s changeup is considered to be his best pitch, with BA’s scouting report citing Wentz’s changeup a nice complement with a fastball that clocks in the low 90’s. Control has been Wentz’s biggest issue throughout his minor league career, and BA feels his ceiling in the majors is as “a back-end starter who caps at five innings or a long reliever.”
Wentz hasn’t thrown more than 4 2/3 innings or 84 pitches in any of his five outings at Triple-A, so the Tigers figures to keep him on somewhat of a short leash on Wednesday. That said, Detroit will obviously take anything they can get, as the club continues to try and fill innings within a rotation shorthanded from injuries. A scheduling crunch is also in play — the Tigers have a doubleheader with the Athletics today, and are in the midst of a stretch of 17 games in 15 days.
As a result, Hinch said that Wentz or Alex Faedo (who starts the second game of today’s doubleheader) will remain in the rotation until some of the regular starters are available. “Some of it depends on performance. Some of it depends on matchup,” Hinch said of the criteria the team will use to evaluate between Faedo and Wentz.
Matt Manning, Casey Mize, and Tyler Alexander are all on the 10-day injured list, with Manning being the closest to a return. Manning already has one Triple-A rehab start under his belt, and he’ll toss a bullpen session today at Comerica Park before making at least one more rehab outing. Mize is also slated to start a rehab assignment this week.
While the Tigers aren’t going to do anything to rush their prized young hurlers, reinforcements are needed quick. The pitching injuries and an almost team-wide lack of hitting has resulted in an ugly 8-20 record for Detroit thus far, and the team has lost its last six games.