OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 24: A.J. Griffin #64 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning of an interleague game at O.co Coliseum on June 24, 2012 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Prospect of the Day: A.J. Griffin, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Oakland Athletics rookie pitcher A.J. Griffin made his major league debut last weekend, giving up two runs on three hits and a walks against the San Francisco Giants, fanning four. He wasn't well-known outside Athletics fandom pre-season, but he's a solid prospect who deserves attention.
A.J. Griffin had an excellent season as a freshman closer for the University of San Diego in 2007, saving 11 games with a 2.70 ERA and a 65/23 K/BB ratio in 63 innings. He was even more effective as a sophomore in '08, lowering his ERA to 1.96, saving 14 with a 49/12 K/BB in 46 innings. Moved to the starting rotation as a junior in '09, he went 8-3, 3.33 with an 85/32 K/BB in 81 innings. Starting again as a senior in '10, he went 8-3 with a higher 4.47 ERA, but maintained good component ratios with a 113/28 k/BB in 99 innings. That was enough for him to earn a spot in the draft, going in the 13th round as an affordable senior. Griffin was used as a reliever in the Northwest League after signing, but this was mainly a move to limit his innings. He performed very well, saving 15 games with a 2.95 ERA and a 27/7 K/BB in 21 innings.
Returned to the starting rotation in 2011, Griffin began with a 1.56 ERA in 52 innings for Low-A Burlington, with a 46/5 K/BB. Promoted to Stockton in the High-A California League, he posted a 3.57 ERA with an 82/14 K/BB in 71 innings. A six-start trial for Double-A Midland was more difficult, with a 6.47 ERA and a 20/11 K/BB in 32 innings with 39 hits allowed, but he did put in a solid start for Triple-A Sacramento (eight strikeouts in six innings, three runs). Overall, Griffin went 11-7 in 27 starts last year, with a 3.47 ERA and a 156/32 K/BB in 161 innings, allowing 145 hits.
Griffin began 2012 with Double-A Midland, going 3-1, 2.49 in seven starts with a 44/7 K/BB in 43 innings. Promoted to Sacramento, he had no problems with the Pacific Coast League and posted a 2.81 ERA with a 40/7 K/BB in 51 innings with 41 hits allowed. Overall, he has a 3.10 ERA in 282 minor league innings, with a 273/53 K/BB and 232 hits allowed.
Arthur Joseph (A.J.) Griffin was born January 28th 1988 in El Cajon, California. A 6-5, 230 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, he works with an 88-92 MPH fastball, mixing in a curveball, slider, and changeup. The changeup is his best secondary offering, but he's not afraid to use his breaking pitches, and he's aggressive with the fastball. A fly ball pitcher, he can get touched for home runs if he makes a mistake up in the strike zone, but his command is generally very solid. This shows up in his excellent K/BB ratios, and despite his average velocity, his strikeout rates are generally good, which testifies to the quality of secondary pitches.
Griffin lacks the physical upside and plus velocity to be a genuine ace, but he knows how to pitch, makes adjustments, and has had few problems with professional hitters. He has a strong physical build, repeats his mechanics well, and has had no serious health issues. I don't see any reason why he can't be a solid strike-throwing inning-eater going forward.