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Non-Twins 2019 season news

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Twins Daily 2019 Top Prospects: #3 Brusdar Graterol

The triple-digit fastball isn't as rare as it once was. By Baseball America's count, 63 minor-league pitchers were members of the 'Century Club' in 2018 alone. Not all of them will turn into quality MLB players, but Brusdar Graterol combines his premium heat with enough complementary strengths to convince many that he's destined for stardom in the majors.
Position: RHP
Age: 20 (DOB: 8/26/1998)
2018 Stats (A/A+): 102 IP, 2.74 ERA, 107 K, 28 BB, 1.15 WHIP
ETA: 2020
2018 Ranking: 9

National Top 100 Rankings
BA: 55 | MLB: 68 | ESPN: NA | BP: 33

What's To Like

His fastball gets the headlines. It's not just the velocity – reaching as high as 101 MPH and maintaining in the upper-90s throughout his starts – that makes Brusdar Graterol's heater such a lethal weapon. It's also the movement and command. The right-hander hurls fear-inducing two-seamers that sink and run in on same-sided hitters, while tailing away from lefties. He can place them all over the zone and he likes to throw inside, which is good news for grouchy old-school seamheads and bad news for hitters that have to sweat out ABs in the box.

Often lost in the shuffle is Graterol's slider, which many scouts label as a potential plus or plus-plus pitch. Tightly spun and fiercely sharp, his hard slider buzzes in around 87-89 MPH (per MLB Pipeline) and is almost unhittable when executed well.

For reference, only eight qualified MLB starters averaged 87+ MPH with their sliders in 2018, according to FanGraphs: Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Jameson Taillon, Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Miles Mikolas, Blake Snell and Jon Gray. It's no coincidence that all are dominant, rotation-fronting studs. The combination of a premium fastball with a hard, late-breaking slider gives batters fits at every level.

Graterol saw it for himself last year at the Low-A and High-A levels. He first decimated the Midwest League, piling up 51 strikeouts in 41 innings with a 2.18 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over eight starts. His final start with Cedar Rapids, on June 24th, was an overpowering display – he faced 20 batters over five shutout innings, striking out nine of them while generating 18 swinging strikes on 79 total pitches (23%).

In July he moved up to the Florida State League, struggling a bit in his first start by allowing five earned runs on nine hits in three innings for the Miracle. From that point forward, Graterol went 5-1 with a 2.50 ERA and 53-to-18 K/BB ratio in 58 FSL innings, holding opponents to a .237/.300/.294 slash line with zero home runs. Not much of a learning curve for a 19-year-old facing older and vastly more experienced competition.

What's Left to Work On

There are three points of caution to keep in mind with Graterol, all of which help suppress his ranking on national lists.

1: Workload. He threw only 102 official innings last year, pushing his career total to 153 since signing in 2014. He needs to prove that he can hold up over a starter's regimen. Graterol's mechanics are solid but there's definitely some effort in his delivery, and further questions arise because of the next item.

2: Build. At 6'1" and about 220 lbs, Graterol has been described as a "fire hydrant" and certainly doesn't match the workhorse starting pitcher prototype. Of course, some scouts also critiqued the size of Jose Berrios (whom Graterol openly models himself after) as a prospect, and we've seen the All-Star overcome it.

3: Depth of repertoire. His fastball/slider combo is unassailable, giving a Graterol the practical floor of an impact reliever, but he lacks a standout third pitch. His curveball is more of a get-me-over type offering and his changeup (like most at this stage) remains a work in progress. Developing the latter might prove decisive if the righty is to stick in a starting role.

“The changeup is going to be really good for me,” Graterol told the Star Tribune's Patrick Reusse. “A starter wants three good pitches. And I’m a starter.”

For what it's worth, Keith Law – who placed the 20-year-old outside of his top 100 at ESPN – said, "To a man, every scout or exec I asked about Graterol used some declension of the word 'reliever' in his response."

Graterol as an intimidating late-inning weapon doesn't sound like such a bad thing, but needless to say we're all hoping he can reach his ceiling as an ace-caliber starter joining Berrios atop the rotation.

What's Next

The hard-throwing Venezuelan will likely report back to Fort Myers, where he'll still be younger than most of his peers. Presuming he continues to conquer the competition there, a midseason promotion to Double-A could be in order. At that point, he'll be primed for a potential MLB debut in 2020.

The imperative for Graterol is simple: stay healthy and stay the course. He's got some things to overcome, but is on track to become one of the youngest pitchers to ever debut for the Twins.

Twins Daily 2019 Top 20 Prospects

Honorable Mentions

20. Jose Miranda, 2B/3B
19. Jorge Alcala, RHP
18. LaMonte Wade, OF
17. Zack Littell, RHP
16. Gilberto Celestino, OF
15. Yunior Severino, 2B
14. Ben Rortvedt, C
13. Ryan Jeffers, C
12. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP
11. Nick Gordon, SS
10. Akil Baddoo, OF
9. Blayne Enlow, RHP
8. Lewis Thorpe, LHP
7. Jhoan Duran, RHP
6. Brent Rooker, 1B/LF
5. Wander Javier, SS
4. Trevor Larnach, OF
3. Brusdar Graterol, RHP
2. Coming tomorrow!

Get to know more about these five Minnesota Twins prospects and much more in the 2019 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. It’s available in paperback or as an eBook.

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47 Comments

Man, Nolan Ryan's mechanics were about as sound as they get.A hard-throwing freak before hard-throwing freaks were everywhere.

 

I'm curious about the metadata on Graterol's slider. From that outing in Ft Myers, he rarely got a swing-and-miss off his slider but it did get plenty of awkward contact and it set up some other pitches nicely, Check out this strikeout sequence (SL in-2S out):

 

hTc7E81.gif

Thanks, Parker,

 

I recall Frankies slider diving down into the feet of an opposite side hitter (RH).Graterol's slider, at least this one, is more horizontal than down.

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FlauerPauer
Feb 13 2019 11:50 AM

Let's hope this guy pans out. He could be a beast and a great 1-2 combo to go with Berrios (if he continues his success). Love the ability to get to triple digits. I believe in Reusse's article Graterol says he really only hits 100 in the first pitch; which he likes to buzz right by the inside part of the plate.

 

Keep up the hard work, Brusdar! 

 

Thanks for the write-up, Nick. Very well done.

    • Nick Nelson likes this
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Tom Froemming
Feb 13 2019 12:15 PM

I was the only one not to have Graterol in my top 10 last year, placing him all the way down to 17th. As Law alluded to, I was also pretty confident Graterol was likely to end up in the bullpen. That's still a possibility, of course, but I don't see it shaking out that way anymore.

 

The extra muscle and Berrios-like unquenchable work ethic have relieved a lot of my concerns. I'd still prefer he dial it back and take some of that stress out of his delivery, but he seems to be doing what he needs to make sure his body is able to handle that stress. There's also the intent.

 

"I'm a starter." Not all pitchers have that conviction. Fernando Romero, for example, seems to be perfectly fine with a potential move to the bullpen if that's what gets him in the big leagues. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that stance from Romero, I'm just saying Graterol's determination to be a starter and understanding of what he needs to work on for that to become a reality are very encouraging to me.

    • Nick Nelson, birdwatcher, 70charger and 7 others like this
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FormerMinnasotan
Feb 13 2019 12:34 PM
I like Graterol’s potential, especially as a starter. While I like seeing players being “fast tracked” to the Bigs when they show some continual success in the minors I would be super hesitant to move Graterol too fast as he doesn’t have the innings behind him, and he needs to hone in and improve his change giving him a great 3 pitch arsenal. With his potential being higher than Berrios and Romero I would be fine taking him a little slower in the minors (unless he’s unhittable in A+ and AA) as I am more about the finished product with Graterol, not seeing him this year when he’s not remotely ready to be a starter in the Bigs now.
    • DocBauer likes this

 

Starters who consistently hit 100mph: Syndergaard ... ... ... Eovaldi Who am I missing? They don't hold up. Do you encourage him to max it out as a starter? Turn him into a closer? Take something off his max because he has good movement and get him a third pitch? He has good control, do you move him up quick in a bullpen role? It will be fascinating to see which direction they push him. This year theres nothing to lose by pitching him 125 innings between a+ and aa and see if he holds up, but the decision point is ticking faster for him than any other pitcher in the system.

Chris Sale uses that strategy of taking a little off on his fastball to perfection.He likes to sit at about 94 but can dial it up to 97-98 when he needs to.He says it causes less stress on his arm and allows him to keep hitters off balance.This would be an interesting strategy for Graterol to try.Just being able to effectively mix speeds on his fastball might be a "3rd pitch". 

    • gagu and The Mask of Zoilo like this

Work ethic, control, hard slider + 100mph. Sounds like a good start. I would much prefer to see the Twins add a potentially "very good starterto the rotation every year then turn pitchers with great stuff automatically into relievers.It is easier and less costly to find decent to good relievers, then very good starters.

    • adorduan likes this
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nicksaviking
Feb 13 2019 01:34 PM

When you have a 100 MPH heater, I don't think you have to have a good change up, you mostly just have to be able to camouflage when it's coming.

Brusdar
1:24 What are my chances at being a MLB starter? Scouts think there is too much effort in my delivery, but man I throw a lot of strikes.
Kiley McDaniel
1:24 Not that much effort, just not fine in terms of command and we think he should lengthen the stride some, but the super easy arm speed is beyond elite
    • nicksaviking, Dman, howieramone2 and 1 other like this

Definitely a bit stiff and can use his legs to drive a little more, but as many mentioned, good control at 100 mph is exciting. I just hope he can learn to pitch inside to set up his secondary pitches. Guys who are able to throw hard and command the inner part of the plate seem to separate themselves from others and are few and far in between.

When you have a 100 MPH heater, I don't think you have to have a good change up, you mostly just have to be able to camouflage when it's coming.

Um, isn't that somewhat the exact definition of what a good change is? :)

    • Original Whizzinator likes this
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nicksaviking
Feb 13 2019 03:13 PM

 

Um, isn't that somewhat the exact definition of what a good change is? :)

 

I don't know, are all change ups equal?

 

I'd think it would be best to have an off speed pitch to keep batters honest, but it wouldn't have to have much movement or great locatability as long as it crosses the plate from time to time.

    • DocBauer likes this
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howieramone2
Feb 13 2019 03:22 PM

 

When you have a 100 MPH heater, I don't think you have to have a good change up, you mostly just have to be able to camouflage when it's coming.

The rule of thumb is you need at least an 8 mph differential. Romero last I heard was 5 mph.

    • DocBauer likes this

Um... so I really, really want to believe, but Graterol (and prospects like him) seem SOOOO high risk in my opinion. I mean, if you look at the top pitchers by fWAR this year, or even the last few years, the rankings are dominated by college pitchers. 

https://www.fangraph...yers=&page=1_50

10 of the top 14 pitchers by fWAR were all drafted out of college. Yet every year, top-100 prospect lists have multiple 19yo-20yo guys with amazing stuff. I don't know what this all means, but I'm just so hesitant to rank such a young pitcher this high.

I’m trying to remember the name of the AAA pitching coach who taught Johan his circle change. Perhaps we need to bring him to spring training
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Nick Nelson
Feb 13 2019 07:23 PM

 

I’m trying to remember the name of the AAA pitching coach who taught Johan his circle change. Perhaps we need to bring him to spring training

Bobby Cuellar! Just looked him up and it appears he is currently pitching coach for the Great Lakes Loons (Dodgers' Single-A affiliate). 

 

Also, I had totally forgotten he was the Twins bullpen coach prior to Guardado.

    • DocBauer likes this

According to the Twins Prospect Handbook, Graterol is 6-2 and 247 pounds... at least that is what he weighed at the end of the season. He gained about 50-60 pounds while he was out with Tommy John surgery.
 
And, when I met him and saw him in Cedar Rapids last year, he was that big, and he is strong. Toby Gardenhire said that he is incredible in the weight room, very strong, very strong lower half.


Sorry Seth, my copy of the Handbook says 6' 1" 247lbs. Did I get a mis-print? Refund! Lol

But seriously, I have to wonder how much height really matters. I understand the downward plane concept of course. But not every successful power pitcher has had had a towering frame. I have often mentioned Pedro Martinez when discussing Berrios in the past. I have done so knowing Pedro was more of a slider pitcher while Jose is more of a curveball thrower. And I have little doubt Berrios is larger,overall, than Perez. But live FB, Bulldog mentality and lack of height is why I always grouped them together.

HUGE fan and believer in Berrios, and believe we have yet to see the best of him. Graterol seems to have the same "attitude" and work ethic as Berrios...and Perez. The fact that he throws a slider rather than a curve may make him an even better comp to Perez than Berrios. The whole point is, height and length is not always in play. Hard stuff is hard stuff. Big breaking stuff that missing bats is still big breakjng stuff. It still comes down to control and consistency, doesnt it?

Yes, to be an effective SP you need at least 1 more pitch. But in today's game, with high K totals, swinging for the fences batters, and the high K looking better and better for smart pitchers who can hit spots, does height and plane even matter as much any longer?
    • sweetmusicviola16 likes this

The rule of thumb is you need at least an 8 mph differential. Romero last I heard was 5 mph.


Quoted this even though I also wanted to quote ashburyjohn and nicksaviking. Just easier this WAY.

All of you are correct. I mean, if you want to be abstract, a slider is a "change" from a FB, etc. But that is obviously not what we are talking about here. But there are different variations of a "changeup". There is the straight change, the circle change, the palm ball, and some would tell you the splitter was a form of change for a power pitcher.

Just...SOMEBODY...grab this kid and teach him SOMETHING in regard to a repeatable 3rd pitch that has speed variation and at least decent control, because his other stuff is outstanding.

No rush. Work on the third pitch. Not "babying" him, just working on the 3rd pitch and building up endurance of IP for a full season.
    • FormerMinnasotan and Original Whizzinator like this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Feb 13 2019 10:07 PM

I was the only one not to have Graterol in my top 10 last year, placing him all the way down to 17th.

Top 10 for a pitcher still in Rookie ball seems awfully aggressive, yet you sound like you are apologizing :)

Top 3 still seems a tad aggressive. He sure looks like a nice prospect, however.

I don't know, are all change ups equal?
 
I'd think it would be best to have an off speed pitch to keep batters honest, but it wouldn't have to have much movement or great locatability as long as it crosses the plate from time to time.


Not really. A good change up is really more about the movement. If you remember, Johan Santana’s change up just died in front of the plate. It’s all that movement plus the slight speed differential that makes it so effective (a good speed difference sits about 10 mph between the FB and CU).

It’s also a HUGE “feel” pitch. This is what makes it so hard for so many pitchers to throw (think Tyler Duffy). If the pitcher can’t develop that “feel” for the change, all it is is just a BP fastball.
    • DocBauer and Original Whizzinator like this
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less cowbell more neau
Feb 14 2019 12:11 AM

"Brusdar Graterol" -- My iPhone's autocorrect will not like this one bit.

    • 70charger and Taildragger8791 like this

 

Jose Berrios (whom Graterol openly models himself after)

 

Good.