The Lansing Lugnuts’ bullpen has done a tremendous job all season, and left-hander Griffin Murphy is no exception. Murphy’s success should come as little surprise to Blue Jays fans as he is currently ranked as the Blue Jays 17th-best prospect by MLB.com.
Murphy was drafted in the second round (61st overall) of the 2010 MLB draft out of Redlands East Valley High School in California, “I was very excited to be drafted by Toronto,” he said. “I was very happy that I was going to have an opportunity to play professional baseball out of high school. It’s everybody’s dream!”
East Valley high school is no stranger to producing talent on the mound. Graduates of the Wildcats baseball program include Los Angeles Angels right-hander Tommy Hanson and Colorado Rockies righty Tyler Chatwood. “Coming out of a high school that’s produced great pitchers adds a little extra pressure. Those guys have done very well. My high school has a legacy of producing great pitchers and if I follow what they did I’ll make it to the show.”
“I know Tyler Chatwood very well, he was a senior when I was a sophomore. I’m familiar with Tommy Hanson too as he used to come workout with us before making it to the big leagues. They’re both very type-A guys.”
Choosing to sign with the Blue Jays instead of attending the University of San Diego was a decision Murphy admits was both exciting and tough to make, “It was a tough decision not to go to the University of San Diego. I made such a great bond with their coaches and such a large commitment there. My commitment process took 11 months, but once I met the requirements to forego college it made it that much easier.”
Beginning his professional career in 2011 with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays, Murphy made 11 starts going 2-2 with a 4.39 ERA while striking out 39 and walking 16 in 41 innings of work. He made the transition to the bullpen in 2012, splitting time between the Bluefield Blue Jays and the Vancouver Canadians and going 1-2 with a 1.83 ERA with 44 strikeouts, 13 walks, in 39 1/3 innings of work. He also kept opponents to a .183 batting average. “Making the transition to the bullpen was easy. It fits my style better, because I don’t have to stretch my stuff out for four or five innings. Either way I’m happy as long as I’m on the mound.”
Currently in Lansing, Griffin is 0-2 with a 4.67 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings of work. “Lansing is a fantastic city and we have great fans. We have a really young team so it’ll take a little time to take off, but once everything clicks we’ll be a very talented competitive team.
“I have noticed that the Midwest League’s hitters are like D1 or better players on every team. Very few teams have a single weak spot on their rosters and you have to throw all your pitches for strikes or the hitters will figure out what you can throw for strikes and they’ll hit it. You have to command your stuff within the zone around the knees or you’ll give up a lot of hits.”
“The difference between Lansing and Bluefield is in Bluefield a pitcher can get away with more. The hitters in the Appalachian League are very good, but if a pitcher makes ten mistakes in a game the hitters might only capitalize twice. In the Midwest League it’s more like seven or eight times they’ll capitalize on ten mistakes. The Midwest League requires more command if you throw a fastball down the middle of the plate it’ll get ripped for sure.”
Murphy enjoys the opportunity to work with and learn from former major leaguer and current Lansing Lugnuts’ Pitching Coach Vince Horsman, “Vince Horsman has such a wealth of knowledge you just want to sit back and listen to what he’s saying, because every day you’ll learn something new and you need to buy into the process and trust him as a pitching coach or you’ll sink in this league.”
The former major leaguer and Nova Scotia native added, “Griffin is doing a great job. He’s got turnover on his fastball and a good changeup. Griffin does a great job mixing up looks which makes it hard for base runners to run on him. He’s getting comfortable with the Midwest League and is doing better against lefties as well,” stated Horsman.
Murphy credits a lot of success on his pitch repertoire, “I use a 2-seam and a 4-seam fastball, a curveball, and a changeup. My fastball is anywhere from 88-92 mph.”
There are many aspects of the Blue Jays Midwest League affiliate Murphy enjoys, but one of his favorites is being able to meet the fans. One way Griffin has done this has been participating in the Lugnuts’ pre-game autograph sessions on several occasions.
“I feel the autograph sessions are a great way to meet the community and see who supports us and rooting us on. It’s a great way for guys to get out of their comfort zones and make a difference,” he said. “It’s always great meeting kids. To us, we’re low level minor leaguers, but to them we’re like major leaguers so it feels good to meet them and they like my mustache too!”