I try to be selective about articles I dedicate solely to one prospect. Is he worth a few hundred words? Is there an audience for this specific player? What are the chances he flames out? I wrestled with these questions before writing this article about Brusdar Graterol, a 19-year-old right hander for the Minnesota Twins. But I took a step back and marveled at his arsenal and realized this kid is special and you need to know about him.
The Twins signed Graterol out of Venezuela when he was 16 years old for $150,000 as part of their 2014 international class. He was just a teen throwing in the high 80s at the time, nothing special. In February of 2015, they assigned him to the Dominican Summer League. He lasted four starts until he tore his UCL and underwent Tommy John. Here’s where it gets intriguing.
While he was out of baseball for two years he packed on a whopping 60 pounds of muscle, much of it in the lower half of the body. When he went down he was 170 pounds; he emerged at 225. We know pitchers use their legs and lower body in general to drive from the mound and help generate the momentum needed for velocity. With new muscle mass in tow, Graterol came back from rehab this season touching 101 and sitting 95-98. He gained about eight mph on his fastball. That’s career-changing stuff. This isn’t just a one-trick pony, either. Graterol also possesses a plus slider that sits in the mid-to-high 80s and scouts think his curveball can grade out to 55 to go with a 45-to-50-grade changeup. That’s a four-pitch mix, y’all.
Because 2017 was his first game action since early 2015, the Twins were understandably cautious. They did not let him go more than 75 pitches or five innings in any outing. He only pitched 40 innings between the GCL and the Appalachian League, but they were encouraging. Graterol finished with a 2.70 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 45 Ks and just two home runs allowed. He also generated a 58 GB%.
Here’s some video of Graterol shot by a user named Jon Tarr. (Music Warning)
It’s a bit of an odd delivery. He doesn’t use his lower half as much as a traditional pitcher might, almost stopping himself short and letting his arm do the rest of the work. And it’s here that you can see where there’s some worry. His short-stride, aggressive motion coupled with a head whack is usually a no-no for starters.
But unlike some flamethrowers, Graterol maintained his high velocity in all his (limited) outings, which is a great sign of endurance on the mound. Given his delivery and his size (he’s 6 foot 1), there is typical reliever worry here. But the Twins are not planning on moving him off the mound any time soon, citing his potential future 80 fastball and three other pitches in his repertoire. Though their deliveries are very different, I can’t help but think of Miami’s Jorge Guzman when looking at Graterol. They have the same blazing speed and a similar repertoire overall. They just need to hone their command and control.
Expect Graterol to begin 2018 in Low-A, his first year of full-season ball. It’ll be a significant test on his body given his limited 2017 innings. It’ll also be the first time he needs to consider pitch sequencing a little more rather than blowing away rookie-level players with gas.
To sum up, this is a 19-year-old righty who maintains elite velocity into starts, pairs it with a plus slider and two other pitches with average potential. He has No.2 starter upside if it clicks and the highest ceiling of any Twins starter in their minors. The hype is already slowly building. Baseball America ranked him fifth overall, ahead of pitchers Fernando Romero, Blayne Enlow and Tyler Jay. If you roster 200 prospects or fewer in your league, I’d give him a strong look but I don’t think you need to rush. If you roster 300 or more, I’d grab him. There’s a chance that a year from now he’ll be a household name in the dynasty leagues.