Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher A.J. Griffin (64) pitches the ball against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE
A.J. Griffin is something of an unheralded rookie. He's thrown 44-2/3 innings in eight starts since his major-league debut on June 24, and if not for this most-recent outing, in which he was lifted after 1-2/3 frames due to injury, he would have thrown at least six innings in every one. He's struck out 3.5 times as many hitters as he's walked, and while his 2.42 ERA isn't representative of his talent level, his fielding-independent pitching of 3.64 is better than solid, and he has pitcher-friendly O.co at his back during home games.
Griffin isn't popular, and his shoulder injury won't make him anymore so, but that means it's time for you to give him a look. He's owned in just 52 percent of CBS leagues and 11.6 percent of ESPN ones, with the latter seeing 25 percent of leagues cut him in the last seven days. He's not considered particularly valuable when he's hurt, even on a short-term injury, and that means most owners just don't think much of him.
Read the first paragraph again, though, and you see a pitcher who has helped out quite a bit in the short time he's been around, for the owners savvy enough to have and use him. He was never a top prospect, with Baseball Prospectus's Kevin Goldstein listing him as his sleeper pick for 2012 rather than giving him a ranking in the A's top 20. He didn't spend enough time in the minors, or at any one level, for anyone outside of the A's organization to even notice him that much.
Griffin was drafted in 2010, in the 13th round, one year after the Phillies selected him in the 34th. He threw 26 innings between Rookie League and Low-A to wrap up 2010, and then spent 2011 at four levels: Low- and High-A, then Double-A and Triple-A. He started the year out a little old for his level, but finished it ahead of the curve thanks to this slew of promotions, then found himself in the bigs less than one year later.
Griffin was good, not great, at Double-A, but much better both peripherally and in terms of ERA at Triple-A. He rocketed through the system before anyone could notice him, and went from sleeper to starter in the majors in a matter of months. He's unlikely to post the kind of ERA he has to this point going forward, but he doesn't have to in order to be productive: if he keeps the walks down, as he has throughout his brief pro career, and strikes out an average or better rate of batters, then he's going to be useful in fantasy. Especially on an A's team that is winning games, in a park that benefits pitchers.
Griffin uses a low-90s four-seamer as his primary offering, and one that induces grounders, but complements it with a cutter that's missed bats and a curve that assists with the grounders. He's not an extreme ground ball pitcher, by any stretch of the imagination, but he's got the downward movement on his pitches that helps him get some. It's likely this kind of movement has also contributed to the low batting average on balls in play he's produced in his brief career, but there might be more importance in the "brief" portion of that sentence than there is in the BABIP part at this point.
Snag Griffin now, at what could be his low point in value for the foreseeable future, assuming nothing major is wrong with his shoulder. It's only expected to keep him out for a minimum DL stint, meaning Griffin could still contribute to your 2012 squad, or in non-keeper formats.