Coming back from Tommy John is a year-long event. Statistics will show you though that it actually takes longer than a year to return to true form after the surgery, so the Phillies taking Derek Griffith in the 2003 Draft was a reach of faith. He has rewarded them with two pretty good seasons and threw over 160 innings in 2005, showing that he's healed very well. It's looking more and more like the Phillies made a crafty move in taking the 6' 6" left-hander a couple of drafts ago.
Shortly before the injury, Griffith defeated Mississippi, who were ranked tenth in the country at the time. The outing was a classic and is thought to be one of the times that the Phillies saw Griffith pitch and were completely sold on what he could do. In that game, Griffith allowed just six hits and struck out eight in beating one of the better teams in the country. Now, almost two years to the day after that outing, Griffith is back where he should be and 2006 could be a huge season for him.
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Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies in the 17th round of the 2003 Draft out of Birmingham Southern University.
Repertoire: Griffith returned pretty much to form last season at Lakewood. His fastball is generally in the mid-to-upper 80 mile per hour range and occasionally above. His split-finger pitch and curve are developing very nicely.
Pitching: Griffith can throw all three pitches for strikes and seems to love throwing them at times when they aren't expected. That willingness to pitch outside of what is normally expected gives Griffith the ability to get into a hitter's head and keep him completely off balance. His control returned last season and he had an excellent walk/strikeout ratio. He's not necessarily a power pitcher and he doesn't feel compelled to strike out every hitter, which puts him ahead of the game. He had some flaws in his mechanics early on, but those seem to have been corrected and his motion is much smoother now.
Projection: What the Phillies really wanted to see from Griffith in 2005 were innings. They got that and were well pleased with the innings that he was able to give and how well he pitched. In 2006, Griffith should be able to do the same sort of thing, but will move up a level to Clearwater. It appears that Griffith will have a better than average shot at reaching the majors and will likely wind up as a middle-of-the-rotation starter at the major league level.
ETA: It appears that Griffith should be able to move at a level per year pace. That would have him hitting the majors possibly in late 2008 or the spring of 2009. It's always tough to judge players who haven't hit the AA level yet, because if they're going to hit a speed bump, that's a likely place for it to happen.
Comparison: There are a lot of comparisons that can be made between Derek Griffith and Randy Wolf. Size, of course, isn't one of them, but the way they pitch is. Neither pitcher throws hard enough to consistently blow hitters away, but both are tenacious enough to get hitters out on a consistent basis and throw a pitch past them in key spots.