Age: 20 (DOB: 8/26/1998)
2018 Stats (A/A+): 102 IP, 2.74 ERA, 107 K, 28 BB, 1.15 WHIP
2018 Ranking: 9
National Top 100 Rankings
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.
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
3. Brusdar Graterol, RHP
2. Coming tomorrow!