Opinion: Gage Canning warrants an early-round MLB draft pick

Teams would be foolish to not take Canning as soon as they could

Not many college baseball players have been better than ASU junior outfielder Gage Canning this season. 

His .460 batting average ranks fifth in the country. His eight triples lead NCAA baseball. If he had a few more home runs, he’d most likely be the front-runner for the Golden Spikes Award.

It’s highly unlikely Canning will keep his production levels as high as they currently are, but he hasn’t slowed down since the beginning of the season — and crazier things have happened.

As a junior, Canning will be eligible for the MLB draft this June, and professional teams should have him on their radars to scoop up as early as possible.

He could be picked anywhere in the first 10 rounds, so it's simply up to the teams and how much they value him. 

“He could probably be (drafted) in the first five or six rounds,” said Michael Baron, ASU baseball beat writer for The State Press. “In the draft, you see a lot of high school players. If he keeps up (his current production) and he’s not picked by round 10, I would be surprised.” 

Canning has improved every year since his arrival at ASU. From his freshman to sophomore seasons, he saw increases in batting average, home runs, RBIs and on-base percentage, and he decreased his strikeouts by 25

Although the 2018 season is approaching its midpoint, Canning is on pace to set new career highs in almost every statistical category.

“He brings a really consistent work ethic,” Baron said. “He comes in and works really hard in practice. His average pretty much speaks for itself. He’s definitely that guy that may not have the power necessarily of a (Spencer) Torkelson, but he’s very consistent at getting on base and hitting the ball.”

Consistency is an intangible skill that helps players have success as professionals. Once a player enters professional baseball out of the draft, a methodical and consistent work ethic goes a long way toward progressing as a player and reaching full potential.

The draft, however, can be quite unpredictable. Stats are sometimes weighted more than other aspects. A lot of high school players are drafted because of their potential, which can cause highly regarded college prospects to fall in the draft despite strong numbers.

If Canning continues to hit as well as he has, he might force his name into the discussion of top college prospects. 

For example, the University of Virginia’s Adam Haseley was the first college outfielder taken in the 2017 MLB draft at No. 8 overall. As a junior, he hit .390 with 16 doubles, 14 home runs, 56 RBI, 68 runs and 10 stolen bases.

A batting average anywhere close to .400 is difficult for any player to maintain over the course of a season, and Canning could hit a cold spell at some point and see a dip. As far as the extra-base hits are concerned, he currently has nine doubles to go along with his eight triples.

The long ball isn’t a major part of Canning’s game, but he does get on base at a high clip (.518 OBP) and has plus speed to steal bases and run down balls in the outfield.

Based on the numbers Haseley put up at Virginia and the numbers Canning could put up by the end of the 2018 season, there’s a chance he could be drafted in one of the first five rounds, and he shouldn’t have too much trouble adjusting to professional baseball.

“There’s going to be some sort of learning curve, but it won’t be as big for Canning because of his consistency," Baron said. 

Regardless of where he ends up being drafted in a few months, the team that picks Gage Canning will be adding a dependable, proven player to its organization.


Reach the columnist at Steven.Slobodzian@asu.edu or follow @PSlobodzianASU on Twitter.

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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. 

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