HIS NAME IS Foster Griffin. He pitched for the Foster Academy Royals. He was drafted in the first round by the Kansas City Royals.
Now he’s pitching for the Burlington Royals.
“Right when I got drafted, I was hearing from a lot of friends, coaches and other people, calling me ‘forever a Royal’ or a ‘forever Royal,’” Griffin told MILB.com’s Sam Dykstra. “It’s a little cliche, but it’s really cool how that worked out.”
It’s cool how well he is pitching, as well.
The Royals have yet to take the leash off Griffin, but even in a limited sample size, his results have been impressive. He has permitted just one run in 11.2 innings across five appearances. He has permitted just four hits while fanning eight.
He worked three perfect frames on July 12, which was an impressive bounce-back performance from his previous outing when he surrendered the only run he has allowed – a solo home run by Bluefield’s Lydell Moseby, son of former Toronto Blue Jays all-star Lloyd Moseby.
In that flawless July 12 outing, Griffin managed to fan Johnson City’s Casey Turgeon, who currently leads the Appalachian League with a whopping .513 on-base percentage.
“The fastball command was the big thing for me,” Griffin told Dykstra. “I was really working it in and out to each hitter, and the fastball had some nice run on it, too, which made it that more effective. I didn’t really throw the curveball too much and I only threw one changeup, I think. It was just get ahead with the fastball and go from there.”
Elsewhere around the Appy:
Bluefield’s Josh Almonte entered Wednesday’s games with a 15-game hitting streak. The 20-year-old is among the league leaders with a .333 batting average and is hitting .358 during the streak. He is tied for the league lead with 40 hits overall.
Elizabethton’s Max Murphy shares that hits lead with Almonte, but also happens to lead the league in batting average (.392), slugging percentage (.735), OPS (1.231) and home runs (8). The 21-year-old left fielder out of Bradley University is hitting righthanders at a .397 clip and lefties at a .385 pace.
Turgeon might have fanned against Griffin, but he has been pretty doggone good against everyone else. He is second to Murphy in batting average (.385) and has more walks (20) than strikeouts (17). The former University of Florida second baseman also sports a 1.062 OPS.
Almonte’s hitting streak has been impressive, but tonight he’ll be trying to match the league’s best streak, which came to an end Tuesday. Jason Martin’s season statistics may not leap off the stat sheet, but the Greeneville center fielder pushed his batting average over .300 recently on the wings of a 16-game hitting streak during which he hit .393. He leads the Appy League with six triples.
On the mound, Matt Smoral is similar to Martin in that his season numbers look fairly unremarkable. But beneath the 2-2 record and 5.06 earned run average is a 20-year-old Bluefield Blue Jay who can dominate. Strip away two bad outings and what remains is impressive – 15 innings pitched, 11 hits, seven walks, 26 strikeouts and a 1.80 ERA. For the season, Smoral has a league-leading 36 punchouts in just 21.1 innings and his 13 walks allowed is a vast improvement over his first season in the Gulf Coast League, where he walked 26 in 25 innings.
Johnson City’s Ian McKinney has had no bad outings to speak of. In fact, he has proven himself to be a workhorse, tossing 35.2 innings with a 1.26 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. He has a proven ability to pitch out of jams as well. On Tuesday at Pulaski, McKinney was raked for eight hits in six innings but allowed just one run and fanned seven.