Aaron Griffin struck out a season high four batters in his fourth and final outing of June, but that’s just part of what you’re going to get from the Rays RHP prospect.
Griffin was economical and used a mixed bag of tricks to get Brooklyn Cyclones hitters out, going four innings without allowing a run and holding them to just four hits.
The Loyola Marymount University product was selected by the Rays in the 10th round of this year’s MLB First-Year Player Draft. He finished his senior year with a 3.07 ERA in 13 starts for the Lions.
His first start of the year for the Hudson Valley Renegades (New York Penn League) was a rough introduction to pro-ball. He pitched an inning and gave up 3 runs on 3 hits. But from there it’s only gotten better, and he’s improved each time since. Most notable, as in college, is his total lack of free passes — he hasn’t walked a batter in thirteen innings of work.
In the June 29th start vs. Brooklyn, Griffin used a strike-em-out low-nineties fastball, a cutter, as well as a slider, and changeup. The slider is a plus pitch, and had sharp break most of the time he used it. While the fastball isn’t overpowering, he commanded it throughout the game, and effectively worked off of it.
In the first inning he showcased a heavy sinker for a strike. He worked the inside part of the plate, and worked through some of the roughness of his delivery, escaping a jam with two guys on. The final batter he faced that inning struck out swinging on a belt-high fastball that had a ton of movement.
He did well when he mixed speeds and eye levels, which he did even more the next time through the order. He looked looser, and his delivery got smoother as the game progressed.
The second inning was 1-2-3: he induced a ground ball out, the next batter struck out swinging, before getting a two-pitch final out. That inning he allowed contact and trusted his infield defense, threw a fastball with late movement, and got the final batter to fly out. He started that inning with two breaking balls that were too low in the zone, and quickly cleaned it up. He didn’t rely on the heater, but trusted it’s effectiveness and attacked the zone fearlessly.
He allowed a hit in the third, but, again threw first pitch strikes, and put himself in favorable counts. He’d get two quick outs in the fourth, and another grounder to end the inning. In four innings, he threw just 45 pitches.
Griffin is highly interesting to watch. He’s long-limbed and lean (6-4 and listed at 200 lbs.); at times loose and fluid, while other times he struggles with control and can get wild. Repeating his delivery, keeping control of his body, and smoothing out his motion were issues, but only showed up. Those issues didn’t dominate what was a smart, sharp performance. He never appeared ruffled by (the few) guys that got on base; his quick move to first is another good weapon moving forward.
It’s hard to tell if he’ll be a major league starter yet. He was exclusively a reliever through the first three years of college, and might wind up back there. But what he did as a senior Friday-starter proved he could excel deep into ball games.
So far, he’s building on that with added innings each time out, and better results. Lefties are hitting just .150 off of him, while right handed hitters are hitting .250. He’s a big, physical guy with several ways of keeping hitters guessing.