A Look at Brusdar Graterol’s Role for the Postseason and Beyond
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY SportsAfter getting plenty of weak contact but very few whiffs in his first few appearances, Graterol made Cleveland hitters look helpless as they flailed at his sliders. Since the one bad outing, Graterol has pitched well against Cleveland, Washington, and Chicago, allowing only one base runner (a home run hit by Chicago’s Zach Collins) in 4 1/3 innings while picking up five strikeouts.
What may be even more impressive than the velocity is the amount of movement Graterol gets on his fastball. Squaring up 100 mph fastballs is hard enough for a hitter, but when it is rapidly sinking the task becomes nearly impossible. To make matters even worse for Cleveland hitters, Graterol seemed to be able to throw his fastball wherever he wanted, regularly painting the corners as he did against a helpless Yasiel Puig, who struck out looking on a perfectly placed 101.2 mph sinker. Coupled with a slider that sits around 89 mph, Graterol has the potential to be unhittable. His confidence and swagger seem to grow with each appearance, and for good reason.
Graterol, of course, has been groomed to be a starter, and if he hadn’t missed the majority of 2019 with a shoulder injury, there is a good chance he would have long ago reached his innings limit. Graterol threw a career-high 102 innings in 2018 between high and low A-ball, but threw just 52 2/3 innings as a starter at Double-A in 2019 before missing time with his shoulder injury, and then pitched 8 1/3 innings between rehab in rookie ball and his promotion to AAA after moving to the pen. The Twins undoubtedly saw an opportunity for Graterol to reach the majors and potentially help the club down the stretch, and shorter appearances as a reliever were a way to make it a reality.
The question of interest for the time being is whether or not Graterol will be added to the postseason roster. Every appearance will be crucial for the 21-year-old to further sell his case to the Twins front office, but if he continues to pitch as he has of late, adding Graterol is a no-brainer. As things stand, the Twins appear to have five bullpen “locks” in Taylor Rogers, Sergio Romo, Tyler Duffy, Trevor May, and Zack Littell, but beyond them Graterol seems to be the favorite. He has electric stuff, and with only Jose Berrios and Jake Odorrizi currently looking like viable postseason starters, the Twins may go with the “opener” strategy and should have plenty of roster space for relievers.
Regardless of what happens for the remainder of this season, Graterol’s future with the Twins looks bright. There are, however, questions as to what his future role will be. Although Graterol looks the part of a shutdown closer, he has been a starter and would have incredible value as a potential number one or two to help anchor the Twins rotation of the future. To be a frontline starter he will probably need more than his current two-pitch mix. Graterol does throw a changeup, but it seems to be a work in progress. The only home run he has given up in the MLB was on the lone changeup he threw in his last appearance against Chicago. On the bright side, he is confident enough to at least show his changeup at the major league level and Wes Johnson and crew can help guide him along.
It will be interesting to see what Derek Favley and company decide to do with Graterol in 2020. They would presumably like to give Graterol every possibility to be a starter and that might mean starting the year in AAA Rochester unless the team feels very confident in Graterol’s ability to begin the season in the big leagues. Graterol was dominant as a starter this year before his injury as he pitched to a 1.71 ERA in his 52 2/3 AA innings, all prior to his 21st birthday, so the ability is certainly present.
Another consideration for 2020 will be the amount of innings Graterol is allowed to pitch. After missing all of 2016 with Tommy John surgery, Graterol pitched 40 innings in 2017, 102 in 2018, and will not reach a hundred innings in 2019 due to the aforementioned shoulder injury. Therefore, it may make sense for the Twins to begin the season with Graterol in the bullpen in 2020 and slowly transition him to a starting role as the year goes on, which would help to limit Graterol’s innings pitched, ensuring that he would be available down the stretch. This could be done at the MLB level if the Twins so desire, giving the bullpen a boost early in the year and potentially strengthening the starting rotation as the season progresses.
Graterol’s health and effectiveness will be paramount in deciding what his future will entail, but whatever the Twins decide to do with Brusdar Graterol for the remainder of this season and beyond, it’s exciting to finally have a 100 mph flamethrower that we can call our own. With a little luck and a third pitch, Minnesota could have a really nice rotation piece to slot next to Jose Berrios in the near future, and if that doesn’t come to fruition, having another potent bullpen arm is a nice consolation prize.
What do you think? Will the Twins find a spot for Graterol in the postseason pen? Where do you think he will begin his 2020 season and what do you see as his future role? Please leave your comments below.
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