Will Brusdar Graterol be the Dodgers’ missing bullpen piece?

Brusdar Graterol - Los Angeles Dodgers (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
Brusdar Graterol - Los Angeles Dodgers (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

The strange tale of Brusdar Graterol‘s journey to the Los Angeles Dodgers started with two things; doubt and remorse. The Dodgers are hoping that it ends with hope and relief. The latter of which would be the most welcome conclusion.

Originally, Graterol was slated to go to the Boston Red Sox, along with Alex Verdugo, as part of the three-team trade that brought Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles, and shipped Kenta Maeda to the Minnesota Twins. However, the Red Sox medical team and scouts had second thoughts, and stemmed by worries that Graterol would not amount to a starting pitcher down the road, determined his inclusion was not sufficient to get the all-world Betts. They scrapped the trade and demanded it be reworked. When all was said though, the Dodgers still go Betts and Price, the Red Sox got Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong, and the Twins landed Maeda, a player to be named later, and $10 million in cash to offset Maeda’s contract.

Oh, and the Dodgers landed Graterol.

It is certainly a risky chance for the Dodgers, giving up a versatile arm in Maeda for the hope that Brusdar Graterol develops into a worthy piece of the pitching puzzle. However, Andrew Friedman’s player development team must have seen something in Graterol to determine he was worth the risk.

On paper, his Major League statistics don’t jump right up and grab you. Graterol made his MLB debut in 2019, throwing 9.2 innings over 10 appearances for the Twins, all out of the bullpen. In that small sample size, the right-hander amassed a 4.66 ERA and a 9.31 K/9 mark.

However, if we dig deeper, things look much better below the surface.

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Firstly, Graterol was significantly better as he climbed the ladder in 2019, pitching across three levels before making his Major League debut. In 18 appearances (11 starts), he went 7-0 with a 1.92 ERA, a 0.984 WHIP, and a 9.0 K/9 ratio, giving up just three home runs over 61.0 innings of work.

Secondly, when figuring in FIP, Graterol was actually a much better pitcher in his MLB cup of coffee. His 3.42 FIP and 3.34 SIERA show that he’s actually pitching at the MLB average rate already as a 21-year-old and was likely a victim of a high .346 batting average on balls in play. His hard-hit rate was a solid 25.9%, showing hitters have a hard time barreling him up. By comparison, Clayton Kershaw has a career mark of 27.3%.

While Graterol has a solid four-pitch mix, it is his sinker that is his true bread and butter. According to Baseball Savant, Graterol throws his sinker roughly 55% of the time and used the 21.4 inches of vertical drop on the 99 MPH pitch to generate both strikeouts and groundballs. Batters hit just .111 with a matching slugging percentage and an average exit velocity of just 84.2 MPH against the sinker in 2019. He adds in a four-seam fastball that he throws 11.8% of the time and with an average velocity of 98.8 MPH, a sinker he throws 30.6% of the time at 88.3 MPH with 31 inches of vertical drop, and a developing change-up.

That pitch repertoire and the lack of minor league innings (203 overall) likely means that Brusdar Graterol will be slated for the Dodgers bullpen for the next several seasons. However, that is exactly the need the Dodgers envisioned filling when they acquired him. The team has a well-publicized need in the set-up corps and with Kenley Jansen‘s contract expiring after the 2021 season, the team could begin grooming its closer of the future.

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What’s that old saying? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. The Los Angeles Dodgers are hoping that they uncovered a hidden treasure in Brusdar Graterol.