The Royals’ 2017 Futures Game participant was LHP Foster Griffin. Foster was taken in the 1st round of the 2014 draft as the 28th overall selection and signed a $1,925,000 contract to forego his commitment to Ole Miss. This was also the draft that the Royals selected Brandon Finnegan who became the first pitcher to throw in the College World Series and the MLB World Series in the same year. In this year’s Futures Game, Griffin threw the 7th inning but only got to face two batters. Braves mega-prospect Ronald Acuna lined out to center and Estevan Florial struck out swinging.
Griffin could be described as a finesse guy who is a higher risk to develop into an innings eating starter type. Griffin is considered high-risk because he doesn’t have outstanding velo and has to rely on his pitchability and arsenal more than an overpowering fastball. Guys like that sometimes don’t pan out. But when his 89-92 mph fastball is being located he is very tough to consistently square up. The pitch has late life and good armside movement.
Griffin does a good job usimg his frame to get extension and throwing downhill which gives his pitches life at the knees. He will mix between the 2-seam which sinks armside and the 4-seam which almost seems to jump because it doesn’t have that same movement. He will throw the 4-seam inside to the RHHs and the pitch will stand them up, getting to their hands, and follow it with the 2-seamer away which gets defensive swings and poor contact. Griffin does a really good job with this which is why his pitchability is considered advanced. He can also use the top of the strike zone well.
The changeup also has really good armside run (or fade) which makes it very tough on RHHs. This is a great pitch for him. Griffin also throws a curve that has more of 1-7 movement on it. The shape of the curve is late movement with tight break. He doesn’t throw one of those big looping curveballs that has a lot of people dropping their jaw. But when every pitch comes out of the same tunnel and moves differently, it can be quite perplexing as a hitter. And I will say from watching several of his outings last year that Griffin does a really good job tunnelling. I saw good and bad Foster last year.
The bad Foster had issues keeping the curve down and his release point wasn’t consistent. This led to hard hit balls that were easy to recognize and up in the zone. But the next time out he was good Foster and curves were dropping off the table and change ups were tearing RHHs up. Then the fastball would dot the corner and hitters were off balance and frustrated the entire day because everything was disguised.
Griffin initially struggled in his promotion to Wilmington but was much better when starting the 2017 season there. Griffin came to Northwest Arkansas in late May and adapted to the league at a decent pace. Over the last year he has averaged about 7 Ks and 3 BBs per 9 innings. His WHIP and BAA will more than likely trend up as the hitters get stronger and better but is still respectable as he only gave up 108 hits in 104.2 innings. Griffin will pitch as a starter all next year and continue to develop into an efficient pitcher even though he does carry some risk. His top end is probably a 3 and some might say a low 2 but he is more likely projecting to be a 4 in a rotation.
Griffin had a 2018 ETA in his Perfect Game Draft profile when was ranked as the 13th overall HS talent in the 2014 class and it looks like that should hold true as he has a real chance to pitch in Kansas City next year.
Griffin will always give up hits because of the lack of velo and the talent of those hitters, but he has the ability to carve hitters up and leave them walking back to the dugout shaking their heads. I am not sure if he will start in Omaha or in NWA but expect Griffin to develop toward the top end of his ability and be throwing for the Royals by late 2018.
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