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  • Prospect Retrospective: Griffin Jax


    The Minnesota Twins made pitcher Griffin Jax the first athlete from the United States Air Force Academy to reach the Majors when they selected his contract and promoted him earlier this week from Triple-A St. Paul. While his route hasn’t exactly been straight forward, he has the potential to stick around.

    Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily

    Amateur Career

    Jax was named the 2013 Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Colorado as well as a Louisville Slugger High School First-Team All-American after going 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA and a 57/2 K:BB ratio for Cherry Creek High School.

    He started 29 games on the mound for the Air Force Academy Falcons across his freshman and sophomore seasons while posting a mediocre 5.49 ERA with 115 strikeouts and 56 walks. However, he exploded onto the scene in 2016 during his junior season by going 9-2 with a 2.05 ERA and striking out 90 batters while walking only 20. He was selected as the 2016 Mountain West co-Pitcher of the Year and was named a top 100 prospect for the 2016 MLB Draft by Baseball America. 

    The Twins selected Jax with the 93rd overall pick.

    Professional Career

    Jax’s path to the Majors has taken a circuitous route due in large part to his military commitments. You can read all about this process in a story written by Twins Daily’s Seth Stohs (link below) but the long it short of it: Jax was required to remain on active duty following his graduation, which limited him to only nine games pitched during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. However, he has since transitioned into the Air Force reserves, freeing him up to pursue his dream of becoming an MLB pitcher full-time.

    He spent the 2018 season with the then Ft. Myers Miracle in High-A, starting 14 games and posting a 3.70 ERA in 87 ⅔ innings. He began the 2019 season in Double-A with Pensacola and performed extremely well, registering a 2.67 ERA in 111 ⅓ innings, though his strikeout numbers were paltry (84). Jax made three starts for Triple-A Rochester where he struck out 10 across 16 innings.

    The two biggest criticisms often thrown at Jax as he rose through the minor leagues were his lackluster strikeout numbers as well as his lack of a true third pitch. His role in today’s MLB, where velocity and strikeouts are king, has been in question throughout his career despite his established track record of success. 

    However, his strikeout numbers saw a surprising and encouraging bump during his 27 innings with the St. Paul Saints this spring, as he struckout 29 batters across five starts, including a career-high 10 against the Iowa Cubs. While not phenomenal by any means, his 1.1 K/IP rate is by far the highest of his career and arguably changed his trajectory from at best a Quad-A player to one who may have a chance to stick, even if his home turns out to be in the bullpen long-term.

    Jax’s best pitch is his slider, which he most frequently employs to pick up his strikeouts, though he’ll throw it at any point in the count. He also boasts a fastball that sits in the low-90s and occasionally reaches as high as 94 mph. Jax will mix in a changeup as well as an occasional looping curveball, but his command on both, as well as their combination of velocity and movement, or lack thereof, leaves something to be desired.

    The Twins made a name for themselves for pursuing hurlers with this exact pitch mix and turning them into serviceable bullpen arms. Jax’s name won’t show up on any of the Twins top prospect lists, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that he becomes something akin to last season’s Matt Wisler. 

    Twins Daily Coverage

    WATCH: Tom Froemming put together some highlights from Jax’s 10 K performance with the Saints earlier this season.

    READ: Not only is Jax an MLB pitcher, but he’s also pursuing a Master’s degree. Read more in this article from David Youngs.

    READ: Here’s a dispatch from Stohs when Jax resumed his professional pitching career in 2018 after serving his time in the Air Force.

    READ: And here’s a Q&A between Stohs and Jax from 2017. 

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    Congrats to Jax for making it to MLB.  It is not easy to get there.  Jax likes to go right at guys with strikes and walks very few.  His main issues have been giving up too many hits which is probably a by product of being in the zone too much and a low K rate which can run his pitch count up because he can't get the K and guys foul stuff off until they get a hit or make an out.

    Despite all that he has always kept his ERA and WHIP in reasonable area's year in and year out.  The thing is when you hit the majors and don't have an out pitch things generally don't go that well.  He got 10 K's his last time out so maybe, just maybe he is on to something and can make it as a 5th starter.  Otherwise like the OP said he should have a good chance to do well in the pen.  That is where I have had him pegged for a few years now.  I guess we will see where he ends up this year as he is on the 40 man now and would hate to lose him on waivers as I think he can be a good MLB pitcher given time.  He has good command he just needs to be able to get guys out at the highest level.

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    Great story for this young man, coming out of the AFA and serving his two years before getting back to baseball full time.  As for his pitching, always reminded me of Scott Baker and Kyle Gibson.  Maybe not quite at the same level, but who knows how he develops over the next year or two.   

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    What do the Twins have to lose by running the kid out there? I guess they're hoping Shoemaker dazzles in his next start or two (same for Happ) to dangle them as trade bait. So I can understand why they're running Shoe out there. In a perfect world the Twins are able to trade those two guys and we get a look at some young arms. Watching Cleveland reload every year with multiple pitchers from their own farm system is frustrating, would be nice to see the Twins start to produce the same. We won't know until they get a shot.

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