The 2021 season took quite a few turns that fans never saw coming. Still, despite the turbulence of season-ending injuries and seemingly random lineup changes, the season also afforded fans a few unexpected gems, including rookie reliever Andrew Wantz who made his MLB debut as an Angel years after signing with the organization in 2018.
Wantz’s 2021 show may have been limited to a quick 21 games, but despite the brevity of his season, the young reliever showed promise and potential that could be crucial to the team in the future, especially given his impressive drive and ambition toward perfecting his game, as best showcased by his journey through the minor league system.
Playing for the Double-A level in 2019, Wantz struggled to find his groove, recording a 7.13 ERA before being relocated to the Angels Low-A team, the Inland Empire 66ers. His time as a 66er led to some improvement in his pitching game. He played 11 games on the Low-A team, securing a 3.56 ERA with 58 strikeouts after 775 pitches thrown. But while his progress may have been moving faster than it was before, that upward trajectory skidded to an abrupt standstill in 2020 after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic saw the cancellation of the minor league season.
But if fans had any doubt about Wantz, his dedication and hard work during the chaotic 2020 MLB hiatus led to some major improvements that landed him with the Salt Lake Bees at the start of 2021. As a Bee, Wantz stepped up to the hill with a brand new repertoire of pitches including a cutter that fans hadn’t seen from him before. He also significantly slimmed down his stats, holding a 2.10 ERA and a 1.013 WHIP after 25.2 innings of work.
One of the biggest shifts that happened when Wantz moved to the majors was his slight change in position. In the minors, he played as a starter and reliever. He started 18 games in 2019, but for the purpose of the Halos bullpen, his expertise transitioned entirely to shorter outings played in relief. Wantz played in 21 games this season, and while his 2021 MLB stats didn’t match the ferocity of his 2021 MiLB career, this season gave fans a quick peek into the potential and fire that Wantz is capable of pushing behind every pitch.
Wantz pitched 27.1 innings in 2021 with his longest stint on the mound per game lasting 2.1 innings. His record sat at 1-0 for the season after he recorded his first MLB win against the San Diego Padres in late August. He achieved a 4.94 ERA with a 1.24 WHIP. The UNC Greensboro alumni had 38 strikeouts and 11 walks while allowing 23 hits and 17 runs.
His favorite pitch from the arsenal this season was his 4-seam fastball which made up about 45% of his total pitches, averaging 93 MPH. His second favorite pitch was one that was entirely nonexistent when he was first signed, but after work during the offseason, Wantz’s cutter became a heavily consistent tool that caught most right handed batters off guard.
It will be interesting to see how the lockdown and offseason will affect his pitching skills moving forward, and if fans will see that upward bound growth continue to push Wantz to the forefront of the Angels relief bullpen.
21 Games / 1-0 Record / 4.94 ERA / 27.1 Innings Pitched / 38 Strikeouts / 11 Walks / 1.24 WHIP / 23 Hits Allowed / 17 Runs Allowed / 5 Home Runs Allowed
Best Performance of the Year
August 28 vs. San Diego Padres
When you have a pitcher like Wantz who has climbed his way to the top after years of drive and dedication, the big moments shouldn’t go unnoticed. Early in his debut, the reliever experienced limited time on the hill, with his longest appearance lasting 1.2 innings in July. However, the month of August brought a change of pace for the new reliever, as he stepped in on August 28 to put in work against the Padres – the day that he recorded the first win of his major league career.
The right handed pitcher threw 1.1 innings of hitless relief with three strikeouts to secure the offense more time to drive home the team’s 10-2 victory.
What to Expect in 2022:
Wantz finished out the 2021 season with the Angels on October 3, but as of now, the reliever is set to return to Anaheim in 2022. With power closer Raisel Iglesias returning and the organization’s focus shift toward pitching, it remains to be seen if Wantz will be a strong contender for the rotation. Although this season provided a fair glimpse into his power and potential, the best option might be to see if more time in Salt Lake will help him find his mark as a consistent reliever. If history is any indication, he’s clearly capable of reaching his potential, so we think it’s fair to say that only time will tell if he’ll be ready for a sophomore season in the majors by opening day.