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Konnor Griffin, the top high school prospect for the MLB Draft, is the Mississippi Natural

Konnor Griffin plays shortstop at Prep, but many scouts believe he will play center field In the pros. Credit: Robert Smith/Jackson Prep

Baseball, we are told by all the sport’s greats, is a game of failure. The greatest hitters make outs 70% of the time. The best pitchers give up game-winning home runs. Probably the best team in baseball history, the 1927 New York Yankees, lost 44 games. They don’t call it hardball for nothing. It really is hard.

Rick Cleveland

Surely, 17-year-old Konnor Griffin, considered by many experts the best high school player in America, will learn this lesson some day. Not yet.

Griffin pitches and plays shortstop for Jackson Prep, but he could play anywhere on the diamond. Indeed, most Major League scouts seem to believe he will play center field at the highest level.

The kid can hit. He bats .600 for Prep, despite rarely seeing a pitch over the plate. He walks so often his on base percentage is nearly .800. When he does get a pitch to hit, he hits for power with three home runs just 10 games into the season.

Griffin can pitch. He strikes out more than two batters per inning with a fastball consistently in the mid-90s and a wicked slider that breaks hard and fast. He makes throwing a 97 mph fastball look so easy it’s as if he’s warming up with a game of catch.

He also can field. He hasn’t made an error this season and routinely turns hits into outs with remarkable range at shortstop. 

Konnor Griffin at the plate. Credit: Robert Smith/Jackson Prep

And, oh man, you should see Griffin run. In just 10 games he has been caught just once in 30 stolen base attempts. That’s right: 29 of 30. And you, as I, might wonder what happened that one time. Answered Jackson Prep head coach Brent Heavener, “Well, one time he tried to steal home.”

Even Konnor Griffin can’t out-run a fastball.

Says Jay Powell, Prep’s assistant head coach who once won the seventh game of the World Series, “I’ll tell you this. Konnor is the best athlete I have ever been around, and I have been around a few.”

At this point we should probably note that Powell’s Major League teammates included Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones and Todd Helton.

Griffin stands 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs a trim 210 pounds. He is broad of shoulder and slim of waist. He would be a high-level prospect in any sport, but he is passionate about baseball. “Ever since T-ball,” he says. “The first time I picked up a baseball, it’s what I wanted to do. I love it, everything about it.”

He even loves to practice, which is what Powell believes will separate Griffin from most elite talents for whom the game comes so easy. “Konnor loves the process,” Powell says. “He appreciates the work it takes to become the best. He wants to be great and he’s willing to put the work in. You put that together with being incredibly gifted, and then you put 20 pounds of muscle on him, which is what will happen, and then, well, it’s gonna be fun to watch.”

Griffin broke a lot of Mississippi hearts in December of 2022 when he committed to play college baseball at LSU. That may never happen. Chances are, he’ll never play an inning at Alex Box Stadium. He is rated the No. 1 high school player available in this summer’s MLB Draft. Indianan Max Clark, the first high school player picked in the 2023 draft, signed with the Detroit Tigers last summer for $7.7 million.

“The way I look at it, I have two great opportunities,” Griffin says, smiling. “I can go and play for Jay Johnson at LSU or, if it’s life-changing money, I can go ahead and sign to play pro ball. That’s two great options. Who wouldn’t want those choices? I will say that my dream has always been to play Major League Baseball, the sooner the better. I want to get there as quickly as I can.”

The multi-million dollar questions: Where will he eventually play? Will he pitch? Will he play shortstop? Will he play the outfield? Will he become the next Shohei Ohtani and do it all?

Griffin is adamant. “I want to play every day. I can throw hard and I’ve learned a lot about pitching from Jay Powell, but I really want to play every day whether it’s in the outfield, shortstop or whatever. I want to be an every day ball player. I don’t want to sit for four days and then pitch every fifth game. I want to play.”

Says Powell, “I really believe if he said tomorrow he wanted to pitch, then he’d be a first round draft choice as a pitcher. But there’s so much more to him. You just don’t find many guys with all the tools he has to play every day.”

We shall see. So much will happen in the next five months leading up to July’s MLB Draft. For a 17-year-old, no matter how mature he is, that’s a lot to handle, so much pressure to perform.

Griffin looks at it another way. To paraphrase: It’s baseball, it’s fun.

Those close to him believe Griffin will handle it all.

Says Heavener, the Prep head coach, “Konnor’s special, a special young man. I’d say that even if he didn’t play baseball.”

And Powell: “You forget he’s just 17 because of the way he handles himself. A lot of that comes from his family. He’s got a great support system at home. Everything he does, he does the right way. I guess I’m kind of like everybody else. I can’t wait to see what happens.”

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