Our April Starting Pitcher of the Month was Aaron Slegers. Before we get to our Top 4 starting pitchers for the month of May, here is a list of a couple others who deserve to be recognized for a solid final month of the season.
- Randy LeBlanc - Chattanooga Lookouts - 4 GS, 21.1 IP, 3-0, 2.11 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 20 H, 4 BB, 18 K
- Stephen Gonsalves - Rochester Red Wings - 6 GS, 27.0 IP, 4-1, 4.00 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 19 H, 16 BB, 33 K
- Sean Poppen - Ft. Myers Miracle/Chattanooga Lookouts - 4 GS, 20.2 IP, 1-2, 2.61 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 17 H, 11 BB, 24 K
- Tyler Wells - Ft. Myers Miracle - 4 GS, 18.2 IP, 1-0, 2.89 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 18 H, 5 BB, 13 K..
THE TOP FOUR STARTING PITCHERS
RHP Zack Littell
- Rochester Red Wings - 5 G, 4 GS, 1-1, 2.57 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 28.0 IP, 20 H, 10 BB, 30 K
You may have heard that Littell will be
making his Major League debut
on Tuesday for the Twins. Littell came to the Twins before the trade deadline last year. The Twins got their one start from Jaime Garcia and then dealt him to the Yankees in exchange for Littell and Dietrich Enns. After an incredible 2017 season between three teams (in High A and Double A), Littell struggled in April at Chattanooga, but he was promoted to Rochester in late April. All five of his appearances in May were for the Red Wings. Littell went six innings in all four of his starts. Each was a quality start. He worked four innings, piggybacking after Trevor May made a May 17 start for the Red Wings. Opponents hit just .200/.274/.340 (.614) in May.
LHP Bryan Sammons
- Cedar Rapids Kernels - 4 GS, 1-1, 2.42 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 22.1 IP, 15 H, 6 BB, 18 K
Sammons was the Twins eighth-round pick a year ago out of Western Carolina. The left-handed starter has had a solid season for the Kernels yet has just one win to show for it. In May, he picked up just one win despite pitching well. Opponents hit just .192/.284/.333 (.617) against him. He gave up two or fewer runs in each of his May starts and ended the month with his best outing. It included a career-high eight strikeouts over six innings.
- Chattanooga Lookouts/Rochester Red Wings - 6 G, 4-0, 1.98 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 36.1 IP, 29 H, 3 BB, 27 K
The 29-year-old from Venezuela began playing pro ball in 2007. He spent the 2016 season between Chattanooga and Rochester. Last year, he was in the Marlins organization. He’s again proven valuable to the Twins in the upper levels, filling in rotation spots in the upper levels wherever needed. He made six appearances during the month. His last start came with the Red Wings and he threw six, one-hit, scoreless innings. For the month, opponents hit just .218/.241/.323 (564) against him for the month.
And the Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month is:
Cedar Rapids Kernels - RHP Brusdar Graterol - 4 GS, 2-1, 1.66 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 21.2 IP, 14 H, 6 BB, 29 K
“It’s pretty impressive. He’s just a freak. You just don’t see guys like that very often. I have a hard time thinking back on anybody that I remember having that type of arm.”
Those are the words and phrases that Cedar Rapids manager Toby Gardenhire used to describe hard-throwing Brusdar Graterol.
Graterol is the hard-throwing 19-year-old from Venezuela who has been dominant during his short stint with the Kernels. In each of his starts, he has hit triple digits multiple times, topping out at 101 mph. In addition, Graterol has a sharp slider and a pretty good changeup. “Pretty good” isn’t a ringing endorsement, but Graterol is young and will continue to develop it.
Gardenhire continued, speaking to Graterol’s pitches, but also his inconsistency. “It’s a very smooth arm action. That’s going to allow him to develop a good breaking ball, and it’s going to allow him to develop a good change up too which is going to be really impressive to see once he gets going. You see signs of it now where you’ll be like ‘Wow, that’ was a good breaking ball’ or ‘that was a good changeup.’ But he’s just having trouble being consistent with it because he’s 19-years-old. He had one start here where he gave up one hit through five (innings). Nobody was going to hit him. You could have put him in a Double A game and nobody would have hit him. We also see where he’s inconsistent, he does things a little different. He misses the zone a little. And that’s going to happen too. It’s all part of the learning curve. You just don’t see guys with that much talent and ability and strength and everything. He’s a rock.”
The right-hander has a very strong, thick base which helps him generate so much power. In May, opponents hit just .179/.238/.256 (.495) against him. The sky is the limit with him. Graterol had Tommy John surgery in mid-2015 and missed the entire 2016 season. He returned in 2017 and split time between Extended Spring Training, the GCL and Elizabethton.
Gardenhire added, “When he’s good, he really starts sinking it too. You see a little bit of movement. Yesterday (last Saturday), he struggled with that. He flattens out a little when he gets a little bit off. When he’s got the movement going. I mean, he’s throwing 100 with movement and a a slider and a changeup. That’s the potential. He’s got the potential to be a big league Ace. ”
Graterol is currently on the disabled list of the Kernels with a hand contusion.
Seth Scouting Report
Since I saw Graterol in Cedar Rapids last weekend, I thought it would be fun to write up something about it. So here it goes. I’ve never seen a better pitching prospect than Brusdar Graterol. Yes, he has the fastball that hits 101. But what’s impressive is that his delivery is so smooth that it doesn’t look like he’s throwing that hard. Having watched him in the bullpen, his slider is sharp and bites late. As Gardenhire said, it can be inconsistent, as you would expect. But when I saw it break like it’s supposed to, it could be a huge strikeout pitch. And, I saw him throw several changeups. It appears to me to be a pitch that could be at least average in time, if not even better than that. He uses the same delivery, and he gets a little arm-side tail to it. Teammates talked about his work ethic, particularly in the weight room. He is strong and lifts a ton.
I watched a few of Fernando Romero’s Triple A starts online this year, and I’ve watched him MLB starts. He has been much better in the big leagues than he was in AAA. I don’t feel like I’m going too far out on a limb to say that Graterol has a better fastball, a better slider, a better changeup, works quicker and has been control than Romero. Now. (And again, this is not a knock on Fernando Romero who is a very good prospect who ranks highly and has a lot of room for growth.)
In other words, if he can stay healthy, he is a guy who could move up very quickly. I have little doubt that he should end this season in Ft. Myers with some possibility of a few appearances in Chattanooga. I could see him getting a spring training invite, and if so, the big league staff will want him around. I could see him starting next season in Chattanooga and being called up by the All-Star break. There are several IFs in that timeline, but I don’t feel like it is far-fetched by any means.
Congratulations to our Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month of May, Cedar Rapids right-hander Brusdar Graterol.
Feel free to discuss and ask questions.