Nate Griep pitching for Shuckers

Millard West graduate Nate Griep has converted all 14 of his save opportunities this season with the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers.

Nate Griep has found a new role since entering pro baseball, and he’s shown he can excel at it, too.

The 2012 Millard West graduate has spent the past four seasons as a closer, amassing more than 100 minor league saves.

“It’s been a different angle going from being a starter to the ’pen, but I really enjoy where I’m at now and really enjoy the role I have now,” Griep said.

Nate Griep

Nate Griep has spent the past four seasons as a closer, accumulating over 100 minor league saves.

In his second season with the Biloxi Shuckers, the Double-A farm club of the Milwaukee Brewers, Griep has converted all 14 of his save opportunities and has a 1.59 ERA in 24 appearances.

And for the third straight season, Griep has been selected to play in his league’s all-star game. He’ll be in uniform Tuesday night when the Southern League All-Star Game takes place in his home ballpark in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Griep didn’t expect to be a reliever when he turned pro. He had started 23 games in two seasons at Kansas State before being taken in the eighth round of the 2015 MLB draft by the Brewers. But that summer in rookie league, he struggled mightily as a starter, finishing the season with an 8.02 ERA.

Millard West (vertical)

Millard West pitcher Nate Griep pitches against Papillion-La Vista in 2012. 

“It was tough,” Griep said. “I heard pro ball was a lot different than college ball, and that opened my eyes a bit.”

So the next season he was working out of the bullpen, and he’s thrived there ever since. He recorded 23 saves in A ball in 2016, saved 30 games at High-A in 2017 and then converted 34 of 37 save opportunities for Biloxi last season.

But not all of Griep’s 2018 numbers were encouraging. His ERA was 3.34, his WHIP was 1.47, and he walked 35 batters in 56 innings.

“After last season, I got a lot of calls from people (in the organization) saying the biggest thing I needed to work on was getting my walks down and go after hitters more,” Griep said. “Not being afraid of contact has been a big thing. Last year I was too nitpicky, trying to hit corners. I’m allowing contact and not trying to just punch everyone out all the time.”

Through 28⅓ innings this season, Griep has allowed 11 walks as his WHIP has dipped to 0.88. Opponents are batting .151 against him. He was named the Southern League reliever of the month in May when he didn’t allow any runs and recorded seven saves in 11 appearances.

Griep said another beneficial factor in his progress came last year when Corey Knebel, who had 39 saves for Milwaukee in 2017 before being sidelined by injuries, was sent to Biloxi on a rehab assignment.

Millard West (horizontal)

Nate Griep pitching for Millard West in 2012.

“He was a great influence on me,” Griep said. “I kind of picked his brain of how he goes about things. One of the biggest things last year was just watching him work.”

Griep said his fastball does reach 96 mph on occasion, but he typically gets outs with his off-speed pitches. He’ll continue to work on locating those pitches as he looks to keep climbing the minor league ladder.

“The biggest thing is command and making sure all my pitches look the same coming out of my hand,” he said.

Nate Griep’s career stats in pro baseball

2017High-A 49⅓3-12.371.115412430 
2018AA 56⅔2-13.341.465533534
2019AA 28⅓2-11.590.882281114

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Gene covers a variety of sports beats for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @geneOWH. Phone: 402-444-1038.

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