Reason to Believe Brusdar Graterol Could Start 2020 in Twins Rotation
Image courtesy of © Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY SportsThe young Venezuelan, who was the organization’s No. 3 prospect last year, made his much-anticipated MLB debut as a September callup. Including the postseason, he appeared in 11 MLB games, posting a 4.22 ERA out of the bullpen. He has electric stuff, and if it wasn’t for one bad outing against Cleveland, he would have had a 1.68 ERA in his first month as a major leaguer.
Giving Graterol a rotation spot early would be a real shot in the dark, but it could definitely work out. One example that in particular stands out in particular is Mike Soroka of the Braves.
Soroka made his MLB debut in 2018, also at age 21. He was the team's top prospect at the time. He went through Atlanta’s minor league system quickly, also taking advantage of his Canadian National Team experience.
Along with their age and pedigrees, Graterol and Soroka's minor league performances are comparable. Soroka posted an ERA of 2.84, held opposing batters to a .605 OPS and averaged 8.04 K/9 in the minors. Graterol had a 2.48 ERA, held opponents to a .574 OPS and averaged 9.67 K/9. The biggest difference would be that Soroka (370 2/3) pitched a lot more innings down on the farm than Graterol (214) has.
Just like Graterol, Soroka pitched very little in his first major league callup. Soroka started five games for Atlanta between two separate stints, posting a 3.51 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. He then went on to deliver an out-of-this-world 2019 season for the Braves, becoming one of the front-runners for the Rookie of the Year award. He pitched 174 2/3 innings this season, was worth 4.0 fWAR and had a 2.68 ERA.
Between Double A and Triple A, Graterol pitched less than 60 innings this year. His shift to the bullpen was part of that limited innings count, but so was a shoulder injury. Odd coincidence: Soroka only 30 2/3 innings in the minors in 2018 and was also sidelined because of shoulder inflammation.
These two kids are similar even when you check their pitch arsenal. According to Baseball Savant, Soroka relies on four pitches: sinker (44.6%), slider (24.3%), four seamer (18.7%) and changeup (12.4%). Those are the very same four pitches that Graterol uses, in a very similar ratio: sinker (49.3%), slider (30.6%), four seamer (18.1%) and changeup (2.1%). The key-differences are that Graterol has much greater velocity (99.0 mph on his sinker, against 92.3 mph from Soroka) and Soroka adds much more movement to his pitches (2,372 spin rate average on his pitches, against 2,045 from Graterol). For more details on Soroka’s mechanics, you can check this out.
There’s very little to ensure that Graterol will have the same outcome as Soroka did, but it seems foolish to rule out the possibility that he can’t be effective in the Twins rotation immediately.
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