Frisco, Texas —— When the prospect-filled Futures Game takes place on Sunday as part of Major League Baseball‘s All-Star Weekend in Miami, Florida, the Kansas City Royals will be represented by left-handed pitcher Foster Griffin, a 21-year-old prospect from Orlando, Florida who has split his time in 2017 between the High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks and the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals.
In seventeen total starts so far this year entering play on Wednesday, Griffin is 10-3 with a 2.52 ERA and 101 strikeouts against 32 walks and 79 hits in 100 innings pitched. That includes his first seven starts at Double-A, where Griffin is 6-1 with a 2.08 ERA for Northwest Arkansas, allowing 36 hits in 43.1 innings and striking out 41 against only 12 walks. The Double-A jump is a tough transition, but Griffin is proving himself as a potential future impact starter for the Kansas City Royals thanks to precise command. Below, Baseball Census has a full Foster Griffin game video from May 30—his Double-A debut—and our notes ahead of the Futures Game.
MLB Futures Game Video: Foster Griffin, LHP, Kansas City Royals
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MLB Futures Game Notes: Foster Griffin, LHP, Kansas City Royals
A good size (6’3″, 200 lbs.) lefty with three workable pitches, Foster Griffin has enjoyed a coming-out party in 2017, and he earned his first promotion to Double-A at the end of May after running through the Carolina League early this summer. The left-hander sits 87-90 mph with his fastball, topping out at 91 mph. The pitch has decent arm-side run and modest depth to it when it’s well-located down in the zone. Griffin pairs it with a 77-80 mph curve ball that is very tight with a short, late 11-to-5 break, and a 79-81 mph changeup that tumbles well and seemed to be Griffin’s best off-speed pitch in my May 30 viewing.
The three pitches combine to give him a good repertoire of sinking, breaking stuff that works when Griffin lives at the knees. Despite his lack of velocity, he does well to bring those pitches to life with very good command, notably advanced for his age considering he’s doing it now against Double-A hitters. That’s aided by the fact that his mechanics are clean and he repeats his delivery pretty well; out of the stretch, too, he’s generally consistent in release points and arm action. Certainly not a hard thrower and without a wipeout hammer for a curveball, Foster Griffin has gotten by on guile and good sequencing. He’s a smart pitcher, and if he continues to show an exceptional ability to hit his spots with that understanding of how to set up hitters, that’ll serve him well as a command artist moving forward.
MLB Futures Game Projection: Foster Griffin, LHP, Kansas City Royals
As much of a breakout as he’s enjoyed this year, it’s tough for me to see Foster Griffin as anything more than a #3 starter in the big leagues, and more likely he’ll wind up at the back end of the rotation. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but the lefty lacks the fastball life and wipeout breaking ball to miss enough big league bats for a better margin of error in a more significant rotation role. He knows how to pitch, though, and he’s got some room left to grow into his body, so perhaps there will be a modest amount more velocity to come through over time. But in light of his good command, the lefty plainly understands the nuances of pitching after arguably making the toughest minor league jump in late May to get to Northwest Arkansas.
Still just 21 years old (he’ll turn 22 later this month), Griffin is peaking at the right time and has earned the Futures Game selection by virtue of a stellar summer thus far. He’s not the flashiest pitching prospect and he’ll never light up a radar gun, but if you’re a fan of watching guys carve up hitters with a mature approach to each at-bat, Foster Griffin is one to see. For the Kansas City Royals, that may well turn into a significant impact at the back end of the rotation beginning in 2018.