OAKLAND—Low Class A Burlington roared to a Midwest League-best 28-9 record thanks to the circuit's lowest ERA (2.56) and WHIP (1.08). For that a trio of college pitchers from last year's draft was most responsible.
"It's like a friendly competition between all the pitchers. We go out and try to do what the guy did the day before," said righthander A.J. Griffin, a 13th-round selection from San Diego. "It's fun to be part of. We go out and feel like we can win every day."
Righthander Blake Hassebrock (eighth, UNC Greensboro) and lefty Jake Brown (26th, Georgia Southern) ranked one-two in the MWL in ERA at 0.90 and 1.06. Griffin, meanwhile, merely led the way with 52 innings and the league's lowest walk rate with just five free passes against 46 strikeouts.
All told, Brown, Griffin and Hassebrock had combined to go 11-0, 1.21 with a 5.7-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 21 starts.
"They've learned to be very aggressive," farm director Keith Lieppman said. "The whole group really attacks the strike zone. They fuel each other, they're competitive and they're good.
Griffin, who turned down the Pirates' overtures as a 34th-rounder in 2009, entered pro ball with a résumé of success that included pitching for USA Baseball's college national team and earning first-team all-West Coast Conference honors as a senior. He served as San Diego's closer his first two years, then moved into the rotation his final two.
"I just like pitching, man," Griffin said. "Starting, you go out there and try to give your team a whole bunch of chances to win. Closing, you go in and fill up the zone and close the door. I like them both, (but) I get a little more rush closing."
Griffin's fastball touches the low 90s, and he also throws a curve, change and hard slider. He changes speeds on his pitches in a way that keeps hitters guessing. "They say I'm vanilla, but I try to mix it up, keep them off-balance," Griffin said.
"He's probably the most mature of the group," Lieppman said. "He knows how to use what he has very well. With his makeup and intelligence, it's like having another pitch in itself."
• After toiling at second and third base with mixed results, Adrian Cardenas had found a home in left field with Triple-A Sacramento. Through 136 at-bats he batted .368/.424/.507 with 11 doubles.
• Sacramento second baseman Jemile Weeks missed nearly a week after tweaking a hamstring in a collision at home plate. The missed time didn't tweak his production—he was batting .313/.412/.461 through 115 at-bats.