Jannis’ promotion will be welcome news to fans of a unique pitch that has fallen out of vogue in recent seasons. The 33-year-old is a knuckleballer, and he’ll become the first of that ilk to appear in the majors in 2021 if he gets into a game. According to Statcast, there have been twelve knuckleballs thrown in MLB this season, but they come with an asterisk. All twelve “knucklers” were thrown by White Sox utilityman Danny Mendick during a mop-up appearance against the Red Sox in April. (Jannis was featured in a 2019 article about the league’s declining usage of the knuckleball by Ben Lindbergh of the Ringer).
Today’s news also marks the culmination of a long personal journey for Jannis. A 44th-round pick in 2010 out of Cal State-Bakersfield, he’s pitched in parts of eight minor league seasons and four years of independent ball. He reached Triple-A in the Mets system but didn’t get to the majors with New York. Signed to a minors pact with Baltimore over the winter, Jannis earned his first big league promotion with a strong start at Triple-A Norfolk. Across 24 2/3 innings with the Tides, he’s pitched to a 2.92 ERA. As might be expected from a knuckleballer, he hasn’t missed many bats (13% strikeout rate) and has issued a fair amount of walks (10%) but he’s only given up one home run this season.
Sceroler, 26, was selected out of the Reds organization in last December’s Rule 5 draft. He’s logged his first 7 2/3 MLB innings in 2021, but they’ve not gone well. Sceroler has been tagged for fifteen runs (twelve earned) in that limited time. He’s punched out a decent eleven hitters but also issued seven walks and given up a staggering six homers.
As a Rule 5 draftee, Sceroler had to stick on the active roster (or injured list) all season if the O’s wanted to retain his contractual rights. He’ll now be exposed to waivers. If he goes unclaimed, Baltimore will have to offer him back to the Reds, who wouldn’t need to dedicate him a 40-man roster spot.