New Mr. Marlin? Young Conine on right track

November 20th, 2021

MIAMI -- On the final day of the 2021 regular season, made the drive to a big league ballpark -- but this time it wasn't for work or play. It was a surreal moment for "Mr. Marlin," whose son, , was to be honored as High-A Beloit's MVP at loanDepot park.

Until a growth spurt in high school unlocked his raw power, Griffin was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to baseball. Part of that could be attributed to splitting his time as a preteen skateboarding. There was no telling whether baseball fit in his future.

"We had the conversation at some point saying, 'I don't care if you ever pick up a baseball bat your entire life. Don't do it because you think you have to,'" Jeff said. "He just decided when he was probably 12, 'I want to play baseball,' so that's when it all took over."

Griffin was born on July 11, 1997, in the middle of his father's first of two World Series runs with the Marlins. Jeff, who appeared in all 162 games during the franchise's inaugural campaign in '93, played eight of his 17 big league seasons for the Marlins. As a result, Griffin grew up in South Florida, attending Pine Crest High School in Fort Lauderdale before going to Duke University. Selected in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft by the Blue Jays, Griffin came home when the Marlins acquired him as the player to be named in a trade for Jonathan Villar in September 2020.

Friday marked the deadline for clubs to set their 40-man roster, which includes protecting players from the Rule 5 Draft. Conine, the only Top 30 prospect in Miami's system in danger of being exposed, wasn't added.

The case is an interesting one for Griffin, who knocked the second-most homers (36) among Minor Leaguers in 2021 but also finished with a 40.1 strikeout percentage between two levels. The 24-year-old outfielder slashed .247/.382/.587 in 66 games at High-A Beloit before earning a promotion to Double-A Pensacola, where he struggled with a .176/.243/.447 line in 42 games. He was nervous that first week before leaning on two pieces of advice from his father: controlling the controllable, and acknowledging it's the same game between the lines.

"He's big on not worrying about what other players are doing, prospects," Griffin said. "It's so easy to get lost in that. You feel like you're not going to move or do whatever if other players are playing better than you. But if you just control your own destiny, take care of business, those things work themselves out."

Added Jeff: "He always welcomes advice. I don't try to be too intrusive. I just try to lend some advice. At some point you want to intervene, because I know what he's going through during the struggles and during the great times. But I want to let him find his own way. But I will ask. I always ask first if he would like any advice, and he always welcomes it every time."

Jeff doesn't just offer guidance to Griffin these days. He serves as the associate head baseball coach at Florida International University in Miami. The head coach, Mervyl Melendez, is the father of MJ Melendez -- the Royals catching prospect who topped Griffin in the Minor League home run chase. Griffin, who hopes to meet MJ and train with him at FIU's facilities, participated in the Marlins' development camp in October at loanDepot park.

With the ups and downs of the 2021 season, Griffin has a clear understanding of what needs to happen in order for him to take the next step -- improve that strikeout rate. According to MLB Pipeline's scouting report, he generates well-above-average pop (55 out of 80 grade) that plays to all fields with bat speed, strength, loft in his left-handed swing and an aggressive mentality. But he can get pull-happy with a long stroke, which leads to strikeouts.

"I think the key with that for me is offspeed -- what kind of exposed me in Double-A -- and that's what happens when you get up levels and pitchers can hone in on your weaknesses better," Griffin said. "I don't think the competition was a crazy jump, because there's good players at every level, but they just get really consistent, and they can expose you as soon as you show them anything. And I did that. But also I know exactly how to go about working on it."