Name a tool and the highest-picked HS player in the 2024 Draft has it

July 15th, 2024

PHOENIX -- In 2012 on a Little League diamond in Clinton, Miss., a 6-year-old slugged the first home run of his life and ran around the bases with his arms and body pantomiming an airplane.

Since then, has emerged into becoming the highest-picked high school player in the 2024 Draft -- selected at No. 9 overall by the Pirates -- and the reigning National Gatorade High School Player of the Year. The lineage of the latter honor boasts some illustrious talent: Alex Rodriguez, Clayton Kershaw, Gary Sheffield, Bobby Witt Jr., to name a few.

In addition to the distinction of being named the best of the best from across the country, Gatorade also gifts $1,000 to the winner -- the first time a Mississippi prep player took home the award. But a separate $10,000 prize was given out by the brand to help fund an initiative of an athlete’s choosing, which Griffin took home as well.

In total, everything that Griffin earned for being recognized on a national platform as a baseball wunderkind, he turned around and gave right back to the next generation of stars, donating the prize money to the North Jackson (Miss.) Youth Baseball fields.

“That's something that’s big for me because you get to be an athlete, but off the field, you're just a human being and I like to try to make a positive impact on the people around me,” Griffin said. “I've had a lot of people pour into my life to help me get to where I'm at and just trying to help out the community as well because that’s who I am.”

Griffin is also one of the premier prep players in the country. He helped lead Jackson (Miss.) Prep to its seventh consecutive state title this year after reclassifying to enter the 2024 Draft class; in each season of his varsity baseball career, he walked out a champion.

But beyond the accolades, Griffin had one mission for this past season:

Put Mississippi baseball on the map.

“A lot of people look down on Mississippi baseball,” Griffin said. “They say we don't have the competition that other states have, but I got some teams from high schools that can play with the best in the country. … My goal in a tournament or whatever it was, was just to represent Mississippi the best way I can to those that say we can't play baseball in the south.”

Griffin checks every box when it comes to a five-tool package. And while the dominance in the win column stands out, there was one mark from this past year in particular that will make any evaluator raise an eyebrow: 87-for-88 on stolen-base attempts. (To boot, that one caught stealing came on an attempted theft of home.)

“Ever since I was young, speed has kind of been a God-given talent,” Griffin said. “But you got to increase it and keep working hard to improve your numbers, your 60[-yard dash] time or how fast you are first to second or whatever it is. … I did a lot of explosive workouts in the offseason where I'm just working on my first step. And really, I just kind of let my skills take over when I got on the field because I just trusted all the work I put in in the offseason.

“Me and coach [Brent Heavener] had a good relationship; he gave me the green light whenever I wanted to run. And so that's what I did -- ran whenever I could.”

Reading through Griffin’s scouting sheet can make optimistic fans salivate about what the future holds: 30-30 upside. Gold Glove potential in center field. A well-above-average throwing arm that was clocked at 96 mph on the hill.

But during the 2024 Draft Combine, Griffin, an LSU commit, showed off none of those tools. Instead, he spent time meeting with clubs and media, showing off an elusive sixth tool that can sometimes be a deciding factor for organizations who hand down a signing bonus with ample zeros next to it to an 18-year-old: off-the-field makeup.

The unbridled joy that had a young Griffin waving his arms as he circled the bases for the first time has yet to subside. Despite the rigors and attention that come with being a preternaturally gifted ballplayer, the dynamic 6-foot-4 right-handed hitter has been able to hone in on what made him fall in love with the game in the first place.

“I've been able to put Mississippi on the map. I've been able to travel to a ton of different places around the country and play against the best players in the world,” Griffin said. “It's helped me become the player that I am. But there's a lot of fame that comes with it that you got to be able to handle. You got to be able to handle the spotlight, the little kids that want autographs. But just who I am in my heart, I used to be that little kid.

“There's some cons to it too though -- you walk around public and you're just known for being a baseball player. I'm a person who loves to fish. I'm strong in my faith. There's some different stuff about me that I love to share just because a lot of people see me as a baseball player. But outside of the sport, in the offseason, I'm just a normal guy, just like everybody else.”