Derek Griffith hasn't had an easy time of things in his career. In college, he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the last month of his junior season and the Phillies took a shot at drafting him, figuring that they could get him in a lower round and might possibly have a solid prospect for the future. While Griffith signed shortly after the draft in 2003, he wasn't able to pitch that season and had to wait until 2004 to make his pro debut when the Phillies sent him to Batavia to start the year. As expected, he was a little rusty, but moved along to Lakewood in 2005 and Clearwater in 2006, although his numbers with the Threshers this past season weren't what he or the Phillies would have quite hoped for.
His stock is a little shaky right now and 2007 is somewhat of a make-or-break season for Griffith. Where he starts the season is anybody's guess, but it's likely that he'll move along to Double-A Reading to start the season. He needs to show a little more than what he showed at Clearwater and prove that he can get good hitters out at the higher levels.
Derek Griffith's career stats
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Acquired: Drafted in the 17th round of the 2003 Draft out of Birmingham Southern College.
Last Year's Ranking: 29
Pitching: The biggest number that jumps out at you when you look at Griffith's stats is in strikeouts and it jumps out because it's disappointing. Griffith pitched just ten innings less last summer than the summer before, but struck out 36 less hitters. It wasn't that he didn't have control - his walks stayed pretty close to 2005 - but the problem was that he became more hittable. He doesn't have great velocity and is generally in the mid-to-upper 80s and has to rely on his curve and a split-finger pitch to make hitters uncomfortable at the plate. The truth is that neither pitch has developed to the point where he can sneak it past hitters at the higher levels. That's why it's going to be so interesting to see what happens with Griffith at Double-A and it's one reason why the Phillies may elect to have him repeat a season at Clearwater.
Projection: This is going to be much easier to gauge after this season. If Griffith can improve on his secondary pitches and maybe find a little more velocity, he's going to be just fine. If not, he's probably a journeyman or less; we're giving him the benefit of the doubt that things will work out. While it's very possible that he would start the year at Reading, a return engagement in Clearwater wouldn't necessarily be a bad idea. It's a long season and there will be plenty of opportunities for Griffith to move up if he's pitching well.
ETA: This time last year, we thought Griffith might move at a level per season. That doesn't appear to be the case, even if he does start the year with a jump to Double-A. It's likely that he's going to bog down a little as he faces better hitters. It's now looking like he won't be ready for a Major League audition until late in 2009 or the spring of 2010.