MINNEAPOLIS -- Considering no player from the Air Force Academy has played in the Majors, Twins scouting director Deron Johnson knows the challenge that lies ahead for their third-round pick, Griffin Jax.
Jax, a 6-foot-2 right-hander, is coming off a breakout junior season with Air Force and was taken with the No. 93 overall pick on Day 2 of the 2016 MLB Draft on Friday. The 21-year-old is eligible to pitch in the Minors for the Twins this summer and is likely to start at Rookie-level Elizabethton, but has to return to school in August to finish his degree. Jax, the son of former NFL linebacker Garth Jax, is expected to have his required five years of active duty deferred, as the Twins are hopeful he'll be in the reserves and won't have to leave the organization again once he graduates in May.
"We did our homework on this," Johnson said. "This is going to be a little unique to us. The good thing is that they're going to allow him to finish his senior year, which makes it a lot easier. Us taking him in the third round, I think they're going to give us some leeway."
Jax, ranked as the No. 82 Draft prospect by MLBPipeline.com, had one of the best seasons in Air Force's history, going 9-2 with a school-record 2.05 ERA. He struck out 90 and walked 10 in 105 1/3 innings en route to being the Mountain West's co-Pitcher of the Year.
"He had a heck of a year in a league where most of the schools and teams are at a really high altitude with their parks," Johnson said. "He's a really interesting kid. He's got really good makeup. Reminds me of [Brad] Radke. He has a good changeup and a fastball he can get up to 95 mph."
Johnson said Jax's bloodlines also played a factor, as his dad starred at Florida State University before playing with the NFL's Cowboys and Cardinals from 1986-95.
"He probably got that football mentality from his dad," Johnson said. "This guy is a warrior. He's a tough, tough competitor. You can see it on his face. He does fingertip pushups before his bullpens. He's really intense."
Jax, who was drafted by the Phillies in the 12th round of the 2013 Draft after being named the 2013 Gatorade Player of the Year in Colorado, was unavailable for comment, but the Air Force Academy released a statement on his behalf.
"I am grateful to the Minnesota Twins' organization for believing in me and allowing me to fulfill my dreams of serving my country and having the opportunity to play baseball at the highest level," Jax said. "I look forward to completing my education at the Air Force Academy this next year and exploring my options after graduation. I also want to thank my family and everyone at the Academy who has been so supportive throughout this process."
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.