Scouting Report on Minnesota Twins pitching prospect Griffin Jax
The Minnesota Twins drafted Griffin Jax in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft out of the Air Force Academy. He had been drafted out of high school by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 12th round, but chose instead to go to school.
Jax had military commitment that clouded his draft stock as he would have been considered as high as the late first or early second round on pure talent without the military commitment question. The Twins were probably the highest team on him with that question, as many had him as a late round flyer, some had him as a 5th-10th round selection, and others had him as a guy to pick early on day 3 of the draft. The Twins were among 2-3 rumored teams who were looking at Jax before the 5th round.
Jax made 4 appearances with Elizabethton in 2016 in the time he had available to throw outside of military commitment last season. He threw 8 2/3 innings, with a 4.15 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, and 1/8 BB/K ratio. in a fairly small sample size.
With a limited amount of time to throw this season, Jax opened with a start back at Elizabethton this year and has made two starts now with Cedar Rapids. In all, he’s thrown 17 1/3 innings, allowing a 3.12 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and a 1/15 BB/K ratio.
Size – Jax is listed at 6’2″ and 195 pounds. He’s right on that, and as you can imagine with his military duty, he’s in outstanding physical shape.
Delivery – Jax has a fairly “standard” delivery, taking a gentle step back, lifting his lead knee to just under his letters, and then coming hard to the plate with a 3/4 to high 3/4 delivery. He has tremendous consistency in his leg drive and landing spot in both his wind and stretch.
From the stretch, Jax is surprisingly effective. He has a quick motion to the plate, and he generated good velocity and command from the stretch, something often a pitcher sees lesser in quality from the stretch. This is in part due to a hair twist of his upper body away from the plate to help generate the velocity that he was generating from his delivery, even with a lesser wind up.
Control (55) – Jax pounds the zone with the ball, and if anything, he’ll suffer from BABIP and getting hit hard before he’ll ever get in trouble through walking too many batters. While I see his control and command as a plus with his fastball/change combo, with his breaking stuff, he struggles at times to put the ball still where he wants due to still getting the feel on both breaking pitches, leaving me with a fringe-plus grade right now, as he really does pitch primarily off the fastball and change.
Fastball (60) – Jax’s fastball works up to 95-96, but he is at his best when sitting around 91-93 with good control and movement. He tends to pound the bottom of the strike zone and has the most effectiveness working around the knees, where he gets good plane from his high 3/4 angle and gets a little wiggle at the very end of the pitch.
One thing I did notice was that up in the zone, Jax’s fastball often will flatten out. He did tend to go high in the zone when maxing out his velocity and intending to adjust the eyes of the hitter, so the flattening of the pitch could do with the extra effort thrown up in the zone.
I do wonder with the excellent command of his four-seam fastball if Jax wouldn’t benefit from working in a cutter or split-finger or other fastball variation to work as an “off-speed” pitch as he works so well in commanding his fastball.
Change Up (55) – Jax has a very good feel for his change and really gets good arm deception on the pitch. The pitch comes out in the low-80s. What impressed me most was the impressive command he had of the pitch, almost never missing the catcher’s glove, let alone the strike zone. This control is vital because the pitch is not blessed with tremendous movement, though, like the fastball, it does have late movement just ahead of the plate.
Slider (45) – Jax’s slider is really a conundrum for me. I saw it with excellent break that was sharp and tight that would have a 55 grade for me, and in another game, I saw him nearly abandon the pitch when it was extremely sloped and slurvy, and I would probably put a 40 on that pitch.
His draft profile talked about consistency in his slider, and getting the feel for the pitch in short stints during his military commitment could be very difficult over the next five years if his entire military commitment is required to be fulfilled.
Curveball (45) – The curve is not a tradition multiple plane breaking curve that goes 12-6 and drops from shoulders to knees. In fact, I noted in the games I watched that he seemed to use the curve most up in the zone, where it’d have a single plane break. It did work for generating weak pop ups at its best, but it was not a swing and miss pitch, and when he missed or the pitch didn’t break in that spot, it got driven hard.
I think the curve has the kind of late break that could make it a weapon on the corners against hitters, though its lack of depth will require more feel for the pitch than Jax currently showed in the showings I saw.
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MLB Player Comp
Immediately when I saw him on the mound, I thought Jax reminded me of Zack Greinke. In watching him pitch, he doesn’t have the sharpness of the stuff, obviously, but his stuff and sequencing reminded me a ton of the way Greinke remade himself with the Dodgers.
I thought I was imagining things, but then when looking at Greinke’s Fangraphs page, his fastball usage went from a 50/50 split on his sinker and four-seam to a heavy usage of his four-seam fastball and spotting it around the zone along with increased use of his change.
Jax has that level of command, though Greinke has another level of study of the game than most players have put in. Jax has been renown for his work ethic to this point, so he certainly has the makeup to become that type of pitcher.
Recent changes to the military’s policy on pro athletes fulfilling their active duty requirement will mean that for 2018 and 2019, this sort of one-month to two-month season will be the norm for Jax. It could mean that he is a late-blooming prospect for the Twins, but as he’s shown, he’s able to mentally handle the move up to a level where his draft class would be (full season A-ball), if even for a short time. The big issue will be building up innings on his arm.
Twins fans will need to be patient over the next two seasons with Jax, but for now, check out milb.tv whenever one of Jax’s starts is available, which happens to be this evening for Cedar Rapids!