Is Griffin Jax Taking Twins’ Top Reliever Role from Jhoan Duran?

Griffin Jax
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins began their season with Jhoan Duran on the injured list. It wasn’t expected to be a lengthy absence, but Rocco Baldelli needed someone to step up. That someone wound up being Griffin Jax, and he hasn’t stepped down since.

Early during the 2024 Major League Baseball season it was Griffin Jax that was routinely being called upon to close out games for the Minnesota Twins. Without Jhoan Duran healthy to make his exciting entrances at Target Field, Jax settled into the highest-leverage role of his career.

Griffin Jax is throwing out of his mind for the Minnesota Twins

A former third round pick out of Air Force, Jax started his MLB career in 2021 as a starter, but poor results (82 IP, 6.37 ERA, 67 ERA+) quickly pushed him to the bullpen, where he flourished pretty much immediately, starting in 2022.

But this summer, he’s taken his play to another new level. His 2.30 ERA is only topped by his 2.10 FIP. His 35% strikeout rate is easily a career-high, and he has never walked less batters. On Sunday, manager Rocco Baldelli called him one of the best relief pitchers in baseball.

“He’s really turned himself into one of the best relievers in the game. He’s got a very deep arsenal for a reliever and all those pitches are improving on a regular basis. His stuff is getting better on a regular basis. That’s pretty crazy.”

Rocco Baldelli on how well Griffin Jax is pitching for the Minnesota Twins (via Star Tribune)

That’s a bold statement for any manager to make, but especially when Jhoan Duran is in the same bullpen. But, is Rocco wrong? Jax currently has the eighth highest fWAR in baseball (fourth in AL), among relievers.

Since his move to the bullpen, the focus has been on adding velocity… something he has done quite successfully. In 2024, he’s averaging a career-high 97.0 mph on his fastball, and his sweeper is among the most nasty pitches in the sport.

Jhoan Duran’s health + ‘struggles’ have made Jax more valuable to Minnesota Twins bullpen

It’s not just that Jax has been so incredible on his own, but the Twins have needed every bit of that production from him as well. Duran will always be among the most relievers in baseball solely for the fact that he can throw a pearl 104 mph. He’s just not the same pitcher this season.

Related: Griffin Jax’s High Leverage Success Comes With Ever Increasing Levels of Heat

Duran’s surface numbers (3.60 ERA) are rather pedestrian for a relief pitcher, and the advanced metrics (4.90 FIP) suggest he might even be over-performing a bit. Jhoan’s velocity is down 1.5 mph on his fastball, and he’s getting opposing batters to chase just one-quarter of the time. His 12% whiff rate is the lowest of his career, too. Duran is still effective, but he’s not dominating matchups like he has the past two seasons.

When Duran started this season on the shelf, Jax became the Minnesota Twins’ high leverage guy. Baldelli can still save his closer for the ninth inning, but it’s Jax who may give Minnesota their best chance to shut down key spots in an opponent’s lineup during the seventh or eighth inning.

Related: Jhoan Duran is Back and His New Cleats are Fire

Having that weapon in the arsenal is something every bullpen in baseball would love, and Baldelli’s fluidity in how he deploys the bullpen fits well for this type of situation. If the Twins have a pitcher go to the All-Star Game, Griffin Jax is the name it should be.

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