MMN Exclusive Interview: Lefty Relief Prospect Ben Griset

By Corne Hogeveen

February 21, 2017 1 Comment

Ben Griset Sept 2-6

Ben Griset is a left-handed reliever in the New York Mets organization. The 24-year old had a very good under the radar season for the St. Lucie Mets in 2016.

Griset was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013 as a 13th round draft pick. During his time with the Rays organization he was primarily a starter. He pitched to a 3.41 ERA in the NYPL for the Hudson Valley Renegades after he was drafted in 2013. He made 14 starts, pitching 66 innings allowing 79 hits during that span.

In 2014, Griset pitched for both the Bowling Green Hot Rods and the Charlotte Stone Crabs in his final season in the Rays organization. Griset pitched a total of 84.1 innings allowing 106 hits. He pitched to a respectable 3.42 ERA. but his WHIP was high at 1.44.

The Rays released Griset on the October 28, 2014 and was signed as a minor league free agent by the Mets on January 28, 2015.

The Mets put Griset in the bullpen as a full time reliever. In 2015 Griset pitched for the Savannah Sand Gnats (now the Columbia Fireflies) and was solid with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP in 39.1 innings pitched.

Last season Griset was even better for the St. Lucie Mets in the Florida State League. He pitched 60 innings allowing just 42 hits. Griset pitched to a very impressive 1.80 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP. He also had a career high in strikeouts per nine (9.9) and a career low hits allowed per nine (6.3).

In this interview Griset talks about the difference between the Mets and Rays organization, his success in the bullpen and a great story about him facing one of the games best players, among other things.

MMN: First of all thanks for taking the time to answer a couple of questions. How do you feel heading into the 2017 season?

Griset: You’re welcome, thank you for the interview. I feel great going into the 2017 season. I have been training very hard since the first week of October. Usually I train by myself or with a friend, but this year I have been training three days a week at a facility in the San Francisco Bay Area called Sparta Performance Science. It has been an awesome experience, but also very challenging. I feel like I am in the best shape of my life and I can’t wait to get to Florida for Spring Training and compete for a job.

MMN: You had a different road to becoming a Met as you where drafted by the Rays. How did that process of drafting by the Rays and signing with the Mets go?

Griset: I played two seasons with the Rays and was released after that second season. This was an extremely low point in my baseball career and in my life. All my life I had been pursuing this goal of becoming a Major League Baseball player and then in one day it was gone. I didn’t think I would be given another opportunity. I was definitely depressed and trying to figure out the next step in my life.

A couple months after my release I was contacted by the Mets and signed a contract with them. I was given a second chance and I was extremely grateful for the opportunity. I told myself I would never take it for granted and I would work relentlessly until they ripped the jersey off my back. These past two seasons I have been very focused and driven to get better every day because I know there are never any guarantees in this game. And besides, this is better than trying to get a real job!

MMN: With the Rays you had a way higher WHIP than with the Mets. What helped you perform better in the Mets organization?

Griset: When I played for the Rays I was mostly pitching in a starter role. The Rays liked their starters to throw a lot of fastballs to develop fastball command, especially at the lower levels where I was at. I didn’t have an overpowering fastball and I liked to mix pitches to keep hitters off balance. I gave up a ton of singles trying to pitch off my fastball more and it seemed like I was always pitching with runners on. After the runners were on I was allowed to mix more and I got out of a lot of jams which is why my ERA was always respectable even though my whip was so high. Essentially, I wasn’t what the Rays were looking for.

The Mets put me in the bullpen and allowed me to have the freedom to go out there and pitch like I know how. In turn, I was able to keep hitters off balance and be successful in this new role. My velocity also increased by an average of 4 MPH. I think the added velocity has more to do with my offseason workouts than my freedom of pitch selection, but I feel like the freedom has allowed me to get hitters out more effectively, which has lowered my WHIP significantly.

MMN: You had a terrific season for the St. Lucie Mets in 2016. What worked for you and where do you want to improve on in 2017?

Griset: Thank you! What worked for me besides my added velocity and the mixing of my pitches was the ability to be more in tune with my pitching. What I mean by that is I was more aware of what my body and pitches were doing and was able to make adjustments right away. I did this by paying attention to what I was doing with my mechanics every day playing catch and throwing bullpens. I would take notes to make sure I had a good base so I could get back to where I was when I would start to get off track a little. This led to more consistency. It’s silly to think that this is this first year of my baseball career that I’ve done this, it seems so simple and essential to do but I guess that’s part of getting older and having more experience.

I also developed a more consistent sinking two seam fastball that allowed me to get quick outs. I never had that before the 2016 season. I hope to improve on all my pitches for the 2017 season by following the same recipe as last year. I also think I can do a better job of holding runners on, and developing a better pick off move.

MMN: When did you noticed you had the talent you could become a pro baseball player?

Griset: I always knew I was a pretty good athlete at a young age, but my first love was football. I wanted to be Steve Young and be quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. My parents never let me play football and I was a good baseball player so that passion I had for football eventually grew more toward baseball.

My goal at a young age was to play college baseball. I thought maybe I could play Division 2 baseball if I worked really hard. It was hard to me to judge how good I was and what I could do with baseball because I grew up in a small farm town in the Central Valley with a population around 4 or 5 thousand. Nobody in the history of my school had ever received a Division 1 scholarship so it seemed a little crazy to set my goals that high because it simply didn’t happen where I was from.

During my sophomore year I was starting to get contacted by top Division 1 baseball programs all over the country. I realized then that I might have set my goals a little low. I knew I wanted to stay close to home and I eventually committed to St. Mary’s College in California. During my senior year of high school I started to get contacted by professional scouts and it was then that I knew I could play professional baseball. I ended up getting drafted by the White Sox in the 36th round. I decided to go to college, but it was still very exciting for me and my family to be picked in the draft.

MMN: Can you give me a quick scouting report on yourself?

Griset: I throw a four-seam fastball that sits in the low 90’s and tops out at around 93 or 94. I think I hit 94 once last year, but not sure haha. I throw a two-seam in the low 90’s with some sinking action. A changeup that sits around 83-86 MPH that has a split finger fastball action to it. A cutter that’s 84-86 MPH but it is in between a slider a true cutter action. And a curveball that sits 77-80 MPH.

I throw over the top and can throw all 5 pitches for strikes at any time. My best pitch, and the pitch I get the most strikeouts with, is my curveball. It is a big 12-6 type curveball that gets a lot of swings and misses and also induces ground balls. I throw more two seams and change ups to righties and more curveballs and cutters to lefties.

MMN: Which 2016 teammate Mets fans have to keep on? (besides Rosario)

Griset: I thinks there’s a lot of guys I played with last year that Mets fans need to look out for. It’s hard to pick one because there’s so many talented players that I played with like Tomas Nido, Wuilmer Becerra, P.J. Conlon, Patrick Biondi, Ricky Knapp, Kevin McGowan, Jonathan Johnson, David Thompson, Kevin Kaczmarski, Corey Oswalt, etc.

I could go on and on, We had a lot of talent last year and these guys all impressed me. But if I had to choose one I’d say Corey Taylor. He is a stud. He throws mid to upper 90’s power sinkers and combines that with a great slider and a change up that got better throughout the year. He’s a guy that I could see pitching in the bigs right away. The last month of the year, last year he really started to figure out how to strike more guys out by adding a little more depth to his slider. He’s a lot of fun to watch pitch from the bullpen and he handled the closer role so well. No situation was too big for him. I think 2017 is going to be a big year for him.

MMN: Were you a good hitter when you were younger? And do you miss hitting?

Griset: Yes I was a good hitter when I was younger and I miss it like crazy. It’s the most fun thing to do in sports in my opinion, but I wasn’t good enough to hit at this level. If I play in Binghamton next year I hope I’ll be able to get a couple at-bats. I’m really looking forward to that.

MMN: Who is the toughest batter you ever faced and why?

Griset: I think I have to give that to Kris Bryant. He was in my conference in college and he can flat out hit but I don’t need to explain that to anyone! I threw him a cutter inside once and he hit it over the fence, but foul. Our left fielder was playing him to pull and he ended up tracking it down and snagging by leaping up and bringing it back. I got him out, but that was an impressive swing and I’ll always remember that play.

MMN: Final Question. This time next year you want to have accomplished?

Griset: This time next year I would like to be competing for a major league job. Whether it’s in the bullpen or the starting rotation doesn’t matter to me. So in order for that to happen I will need to have another great season this year. I’m excited for the 2017 to get under way and I’m up for the challenge.

MMN: Thanks for answering my questions and good luck in 2017!

Griset: Thanks for the questions. Sorry I was a little long on some answers. That was fun!

You can follow Ben Griset on twitter @bengriset