- Jax has younger twin siblings.
- Griffin's father, Garth Jax, played 11 years as an offensive lineman in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals and played collegiately at Florida State.
- Garth Jax may be best known among Cardinals fans for tackling a drunk fan who ran onto the field in 1994.
In 2013, Jax graduated from Cherry Creek High School in Colorado. He was the 5A State Player of the Year and the Gatorade State Player of the Year for Colorado. Jax had gone 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA and 57 K's in 40.1 innings.
In 2013, Jax did not sign with the Phillies after they chose him in the 12th round of the draft.
DRAFTED OUT OF THE AIR FORCE ACADEMY
June 2016: The Twins chose Jax in the third round of the draft. Considering no player from the Air Force Academy has played in the Majors, Twins scouting director Deron Johnson knows the challenge that lies ahead.
Jax, a 6-foot-2 righthander, was coming off a breakout junior season with Air Force. Griffin is eligible to pitch in the Minors for the Twins this summer and is likely to start at Rookie-level Elizabethton, but has to return to school in August to finish his degree. Jax, the son of former NFL linebacker Garth Jax, is expected to have his required five years of active duty deferred, as the Twins are hopeful he'll be in the reserves and won't have to leave the organization again once he graduates in May.
"We did our homework on this," Johnson said. "This is going to be a little unique to us. The good thing is that they're going to allow him to finish his senior year, which makes it a lot easier. Our taking him in the third round, I think they're going to give us some leeway."
Johnson said Jax's bloodlines also played a factor. His dad starred at Florida State University before playing with the NFL's Cowboys and Cardinals from 1986-1995.
"He probably got that football mentality from his dad," Johnson said. "This guy is a warrior. He's a tough, tough competitor. You can see it on his face. He does fingertip pushups before his bullpens. He's really intense."
The Air Force Academy released a statement on Griffin's behalf.
"I am grateful to the Twins' organization for believing in me and allowing me to fulfill my dreams of serving my country and having the opportunity to play baseball at the highest level," Jax said. "I look forward to completing my education at the Air Force Academy this next year and exploring my options after graduation. I also want to thank my family and everyone at the Academy who has been so supportive throughout this process." (Bollinger - MLB.com - 6/10/16)
June 2016: The Twins chose Jax in the third round, out of the Air Force Academy in Colorado. He signed for $645,600, via scout Ted Williams.
The Twins gambled on Jax after a 2016 policy change by the Department of Defense seemed to allow him—and other service academy athletes—to immediately play a professional sport. But in April, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis ruled that academy athletes would be required to serve two years of active duty before requesting the Ready Reserve status that would allow them to play.
In a statement, Mattis said service academies “exist to develop future officers who enhance the readiness and lethality of our military services.”
After he was drafted, Griffin got into four games, going 0-1, 4.15 ERA at Rookie-level Elizabethton.
In 2017, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Jax the 22nd-best prospect in the Twins organization. After missing the book in 2018 he was at #14 in the spring of 2019.
- Griffin has excellent makeup and maturity, which is rather obvious with his military/Air Force Academy background. He graduated from the Academy in May 2017, so he missed Spring Training and the first couple of months of the season. Even when Jax does report to the Twins, he owes the U.S. military five years of service, just like all Air Force cadets. How he fulfills that obligation, however, isn’t certain.
“We’ll see what they decide,” vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said in 2017. “Air Force laid out a deferral policy before the draft last year to allow (Jax) to play, then serve in the reserves during the offseason. But you never know when things might change.”
June 5, 2021: Griffin Jax's wife, Savannah, earned a promotion to the rank of captain in the United States Air Force on May 24. If he'd remained on active duty, he'd have been on schedule to earn his promotion to captain at that point, too.
But Jax's promotion schedule was disrupted by his transfer to the Air Force Reserve in 2019 to facilitate his professional baseball career, meaning that he's still 1st Lt. Griffin Jax as he awaits the email informing him of his promotion.
In the meantime, he got a call about another promotion first.
The Twins selected Jax to their active roster in Kansas City, making him the first Air Force Academy graduate to join a Major League roster. In doing so, Jax also completed a unique journey that involved sudden changes in military policy that disrupted his baseball trajectory, Minor League ball while on leave from his military obligations and an active duty assignment in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
"The path I took to this point has really been unique and it sort of helped formulate and mold me into a different type of person," Jax said. "Going through the service academy is not for everybody. It takes a different kid out of high school growing up, one that really understands more about themselves and one that's more mentally mature, I would say, from that standpoint. "But in that sense, I'm truly grateful and excited to represent the Air Force in this capacity and in this way."
Following his third-round selection in the 2016 draft—the highest ever by an Air Force player—and his active duty assignment in 2017, Jax has more or less lived a normal baseball life since April 2018. It was at that point that he was accepted to the Air Force World Class Athlete Program, which allowed him to pitch in the Minors (technically in preparation for the Tokyo Olympic Games) without receiving pay from the Twins.
Through all of the chaos and uncertainty, the 26-year-old posted a 3.20 ERA across 52 appearances in the Minors, including a 3.33 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 27 innings for Triple-A St. Paul this season. He wasn't included in the Twins' alternate training site last season with the Minor League campaign shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he worked with his pitching coordinators and pitching coaches throughout the organization to put himself in the best position for success when play resumed. "I think a lot of it stems from the entire Twins’ pitching strategy of just attacking the zone with more off-speed [pitches], using our analytics and our data to put us in the best position moving forward," Jax said.
That work has now paid off, and his college coach, Mike Kazlausky, will be in attendance at Kauffman Stadium alongside Jax's family for his debut, whether that comes out of the bullpen or, possibly, as the Twins' starter, though the club has not yet announced such plans.
Kazlausky would often message Jax during his Minor League career, to the tune of: "You have to do this for us; you have to get us on the map."
He now has put the Air Force Academy on the map. And though his wife now outranks him, Jax has plenty of bragging rights of his own.
"It’s truly unbelievable," Jax said. "I’m still sort of shocked. I wouldn’t even necessarily say that it’s hit me so far. Being with all these guys up here just puts a smile on my face and I’m definitely excited to see what the day and night holds." (DH Park - MLB.com - June 5, 2021)
To the media, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli made it appear as if he still hadn’t made up his mind. In reality, he and his staff have had a plan brewing to give Griffin his first start in the big leagues on July 3, 2021, and in the process, make him the first graduate of the US Air Force Academy to start a Major League game.
Minnesota missed the mark by about 20 hours to have Jax start on Kansas City’s Armed Forces Night (7/2/2021), but the fact that Jax made his first big league start on Fourth of July weekend still makes it a special occasion for the Twins.
“We've had this planned for a few months now, to have Griffin pitching this weekend, and we missed it by a day,” Baldelli said. “Sometimes we mishandle things, and that was one of the things we may have messed up a little bit, but it still plays out all right.”
Jax already became the first Air Force Academy graduate to make a Major League roster on June 5, and he became the first graduate to appear in a Major League game when he debuted on June 8. Knowing who he is representing could put added pressure on Jax’s shoulders as he looks to make a name for himself with Minnesota, but Baldelli said Jax has taken everything in stride.
“I'll tell you this: he's representing the United States military and the Air Force Academy very, very well,” Baldelli said. “The type of character that he brings to the table, you're not surprised that he's having the success he's having, because he's a very disciplined, hard-working and talented young guy. He is always going to put himself in a position to succeed. He does every day when he's here. Doesn't get distracted by things that could distract others and could get in his way. Doesn't let any of that bother him. He's doing a great job, and I have no doubt he'll continue to be the same guy going forward and have success on the field.”
Jax hasn’t had the success he’d hoped for early on. He appeared in four games in June, pitching to a 7.82 ERA, a .280 opponents’ average and a 1.50 WHIP. But he’d worked almost exclusively as a starter. Across five seasons in the Minors, he posted a 3.20 ERA and struck out 217 batters to just 60 walks.
“He's a guy that's been a starting pitcher, he's very familiar with that role, comfortable in that role, and I think he's been waiting for that opportunity,” Baldelli said. “And the Fourth of July weekend is not a bad time to put the Captain out there to go do his thing. It all worked out, and, now, he can go out there and do it on the field.” (Herrera - mlb.com - 7/3/2021)
|Home:||Greenwood Village, CO||Team:||TWINS|
|Draft:||Twins #3 - 2016 - Out of the Air Force Academy (CO)|
Jax has am 89-95 mph FASTBALL that he can place to all four quadrants of the strike zone -- in and out, up and down. His big breaking SLIDER lacks consistency and CURVEBALL come and go. But he has very good feel for his CHANGEUP, with plus potential.
Griffin has excellent command with a loose, quick arm ad a low-stress delivery, He has advanced touch and feel for the pitching craft. He is aggressive on the mound.
The Twins love his makeup and work ethic and envision him as a starter, he just needs more innings to get the consistency needed. (Spring 2017)
Griffin maintains his velo until late in games.
Jax has rapid arm speed.
In 2016 in college, Jax, ranked as the No. 82 Draft prospect by MLBPipeline.com, had one of the best seasons in Air Force's history, going 9-2 with a school-record 2.05 ERA. He struck out 90 and walked 10 in 105 innings en route to being the Mountain West's co-Pitcher of the Year.
"He had a heck of a year in a league where most of the schools and teams are at a really high altitude with their parks," Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said. "He's a really interesting kid. He's got really good makeup. Reminds me of [Brad] Radke. He has a good changeup and a fastball he can get up to 95 mph." (Bollinger - MLB.com - 6/10/16)
June 8, 2021: Griffin Jax made history by becoming the first graduate of the US Air Force Academy to appear in an MLB game. Jax made his debut in the top of the ninth inning of the Twins’ 8-4 loss to the Yankees, giving up homers to Gary Sánchez and Miguel Andújar but also picking up his first Major League strikeout by fanning Tyler Wade in between. (M Randhawa - MLB.com - June 9, 2021)
Aug 10, 2021: For those who wondered if Jax’s low career strikeout totals and low-90s fastball could continue to play at the big league level, consider, too, that this is a different Jax in 2021, one with more vertical movement on his fastball thanks to some tweaked mechanics involving his hand placement during his motion and a greater reliance on his fastball and slider.
In fact, he threw the fastball and slider on 68 of his 83 pitches while using his curveball and changeup only to mix things up, a variation from the more balanced approach he’s used in the past. It’s tough to argue with the results, considering his 10 strikeouts matched his most in any professional start since he was drafted in 2016. Prior to this season, when he made those adjustments, he had never topped eight strikeouts in a start.
Jax became the first Twins rookie pitcher with double-digit strikeouts in a game since Trevor May struck out 10 White Sox batters on Sept. 14, 2014.
“I know those are my two strengths, truly, when I’m on the mound: my slider for a strikeout pitch and setting up with my fastball,” Jax said. “I’ve always had good command of my fastball, but now that it’s sort of playing to the carry, technicality of a fastball, I can use and exploit that.”
Jax threw more sliders (35) than fastballs (33) in a start for the first time in his big league career and, as he mentioned, picked up seven of his 10 strikeouts with the slider. Five of those came swinging, but two also came looking. That's a sign that the White Sox hitters didn’t necessarily have Jax’s new approach figured out or weren’t reading the movement of the pitch properly.
“We saw some swings at some sliders that were in the dirt bouncing,” Baldelli said. “I saw a lot of sliders, too, that when he would throw it and spin it real good in the zone, sometimes they would just take it. They weren’t able to pull the trigger on it.” (DH Park - MLB.com - Aug 11, 2021)
Oct 2, 2021: “To step in as a young player and start, and get these starts, that shot doesn't come around every day,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “But in addition to getting the outings, you're also going to learn what plays at the big league level and what needs to be adjusted. Most guys don't get the opportunity to just kind of figure that out on the fly over the course of half the season.”
As part of those adjustments, Jax got to work extensively with pitching coach Wes Johnson on the slider that could continue to serve as an important part of his success moving into next season. There was added emphasis on the curveball as well that helps to round out his arsenal, particularly on days during which he doesn’t have his slider working. He had a few of those days earlier in 2021. (DH Park - MLB.com - Oct 3, 2021)
- 2021 Season: Through all of the chaos and uncertainty, the 26-year-old posted a 3.20 ERA across 52 appearances in the Minors, including a 3.33 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 27 innings for Triple-A St. Paul this 2021 season. (Spring 2021)
- May 19-June 10, 2019: Jax was on the IL.