Griffin Conine came of age in the Marlins clubhouse, raised by the likes of Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramírez.
“Huge forearms, but tiny feet,” Conine said about Uggla, who gave him a pair of size nine cleats that he fit into at the age of 13.
As the son of Jeff Conine, famously known as Mr. Marlin, Griffin’s roots are within the Marlins organization. His early childhood memories include a watch party for Game 6 of the 2003 World Series and the way the old football stadium was different from any baseball atmosphere he had ever seen.
“I remember what it looked like to see Joe Robbie Stadium packed,” Conine said, “like full upper deck, like fully packed. Which was crazy, because that was like the only time ever, really.”
The 24-year-old outfielder spent his entire life in South Florida before playing his college ball at Duke. He is a product of Pinecrest High School where he played for four different coaches in four years, an experience he said taught him how to be his own coach and work on himself at the plate.
“You have to be your own coach through all of baseball,” Conine said. “You have hitting coaches and pitching coaches and whatever, but it’s so internal. They never know what’s going on with your body or in your head as much as they try and may do a good job. But it’s so important to be a really good coach for yourself and know how things are going bad and what makes you good when you’re good.”
Of course, it always helps to have a 17-year Major League veteran as a dad.
“I had the best coach that anyone could have,” Conine said.
He said his dad was always pretty hands-off as a coach, knowing when to let his son figure things out and when to give him the pointers he needed. Griffin called Jeff “the ultimate old-school player” and said playing hard everyday was the main thing his dad would focus on when teaching him.
“He always tells me about how much he respected guys that he played against that would just always play 100%,” Conine said. “That’s something I always tried to do because that’s something he always instructed me to, ya know, ‘this is the way to play.’”
Griffin said the art of hard work often gets lost in today’s game where so much of the focus is on analytics and home runs and exit velocities, which was funny to hear considering he is the current Minor League Baseball home run leader.
Conine has always been a power-first hitter, he has a 55-grade power tool and 45-grade hit tool, according to MLB Pipeline. In his first pro-ball action in the Blue Jays organization, Conine hit only .243, but launched seven home runs in 57 games. He missed the first 50 games of 2019 due to a suspension, but still managed to hit 22 home runs that year in just 80 games.
That kind of power has been missing from the Marlins—since 2018, they rank dead last among all MLB teams in home runs (457). They have been desperate to acquire help in that department from outside the organization. It was one of the main reasons that the Marlins hand-selected Conine when they traded Jonathan Villar to the Blue Jays at the deadline in 2020.
Griffin said when he found out through Twitter, he was caught by complete surprise.
“Never thought in a million years it would be me,” Conine said. “The Jays, they picked me pretty high and they were pretty low on outfield talent in their org, the opposite of the Marlins. So it just wasn’t on my mind, I thought for sure they’d just wanna stick with their guns as far as outfielders go.”
Conine said when he got to Miami he felt how badly the organization that raised him wanted him on their side.
“[Mike Hill] told my dad about when they were doing the trade negotiations for Villar,” Conine said. “He said they threw my name out there expecting to be shut down pretty quick, I think because of the same reasons I said, but they didn’t get a lot of push back...I think they were pretty surprised that it did work out.”
Now back home in 2021 with dad’s organization, Conine has gone to a new level when it comes to power. After hitting two more bombs on Sunday, Griffin has 34 this season, including 11 in just 29 games in Double-A. Number 33 and 34 both went to the opposite field, and that kind of power is something that Jeff said does not come from him.
“Griffin is playing a game that I wasn’t familiar with,” Conine said on his “Outside the Box” podcast. “He doesn’t have to pull the ball to hit a home run: he can hit the ball out anywhere.”
Griffin said he has never felt as good as he has this year.
“It seems like all my really good swings, as far as like when my timing is good and I hit it on the barrel, those are homers, like every time,” Conine said. “I have very few where that translates to like, a single.”
Conine believes that using all fields has been a huge part of his success:
“I think the biggest thing that I like to see is if you look at the homer spray chart, they’re kinda out to left, out to center, out to right. You gotta be able to go to all fields to be able to hit a lot of homers. If I only hit them to right or even right and center, I’d probably have 15 maybe. The other way is a huge, huge part of being able to put up big numbers because that’s where guys want to get you out for the most part.”
According to MiLB play-by-play data, Conine’s 34 long balls have been distributed as follows: 11 to left field, seven to left-center, seven to straightaway center, six to right-center and three to right.
The MiLB home run leader has three in his last three at-bats.#Marlins' No. 22 prospect Griffin Conine went deep in his first two plate appearances Sunday for @BlueWahoosBBall. pic.twitter.com/LhozkqXeVu— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 22, 2021
His use of all fields shows his ability to be a complete hitter, but there are still concerns. His strikeout percentage is extremely high and has always been the biggest knock on Conine. He has struck out in 40.8% of his 120 plate appearances in Pensacola, and struck out at a 35.8% clip in 288 plate appearances in Beloit. The league averages for the Double-A South and High-A Central are 25.9% and 26.4%, respectively.
Griffin told me he knows the biggest adjustments he has to make to cut down the strikeouts, but not to give it away to opposing pitchers. Ultimately, how much he can cut them down will go a long way in determining what kind of player he can be in the Major Leagues.
Kids of Major Leaguers are popping up all over the place right now in this young generation of stars. Conine’s former organization alone has Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio. Fernando Tatís Jr.—who’s emerging as the face of the league—is the son of a former Major Leaguer, and Al Leiter’s son Jack was just the second overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft by the Rangers.
One thing all of those kids have in common, however, is that none of them play for the same organizations that their fathers spent their careers with. Griffin Conine is currently playing for the team that groomed him, that watched him grow from a little kid with a dream to a burgeoning star wielding a bat filled with home runs.
The kid who fit in Dan Uggla’s shoes at 13 is now hitting home runs that Uggla would be jealous of on an almost nightly basis. The kid who watched his dad make one of the most famous throws in franchise history, is now replicating that play for the organization that his father is synonymous with.
While his dad’s career is behind him and his legacy has been formed, Griffin is only beginning to shape his in a Marlins uniform. None of us know what kind of career he will have, but there will always be something special about what is happening this year: Griffin Conine is flourishing in the organization that raised him.