Minnesota Twins: Why keeping Brusdar Graterol in the bullpen is a brilliant move
By Chris Schad
The Minnesota Twins’ top pitching prospect was impressive last fall and it appears the team wants to give him more MLB innings in the bullpen in 2020.
The Minnesota Twins’ obsession throughout the winter was the pursuit of impact pitching. If you’ve been a regular reader of this site, you know that the Twins failed in many regards to adding a certified ace to their starting rotation both in free agency and in the trade market (so far).
However, there is good news on the horizon if you don’t have faith in Rich Hill, Homer Bailey or any of the incumbents in the Twins 2020 rotation. After Brusdar Graterol impressed, many figured he could be a key player if his development went well at Triple-A and could make his way to the rotation in time for a postseason push.
It’s not that the Twins front office has suddenly lost faith in Graterol, but the recent word from the Twins themselves is that the 21-year old phenom could be in line for a full season in the bullpen. The latest comment from Wes Johnson on the Twins winter caravan earlier this week seemed to confirm that as Minnesota will look to continue his development at the major league level as opposed to head back to the minors.
The physical and mental routine makes sense for a player who is considered to have a bright future and yet still has room to grow before becoming the next young ace in Major League Baseball.
Take into consideration Graterol’s current standing within the organization. Graterol’s 2019 began at Double-A Pensacola, where he flashed the ability that makes many believe he’ll be a top-flight starter in the major leagues. After going 5-0 with a 1.89 ERA in nine starts, Graterol looked to be well on his way before a shoulder impingement wiped out two months of his season.
Even before the injury Graterol went over five innings just once in seven shutout innings on Apr. 16 against Biloxi (7 IP, H, BB, 8 K) and has never pitched more than 102 innings in a season. When his tour of dominance picked back up in July, Graterol ran through the system all the way to Minnesota where he posted modest stats (4.66 ERA) but only had one real rough outing, allowing three runs without an out in a Sept. 6 loss to Cleveland.
Those numbers aren’t lights out, but it’s hard to ignore his overall resume in minors, where he posted a 2.45 ERA and struck out 230 batters with a 1.07 WHIP in 214 innings. Those numbers suggest there isn’t much for Graterol to work on, even with just 5 1/3 innings at Triple-A.
By placing Graterol in the bullpen, he can work on his craft by going up against major league hitters. If he fares well, the Twins’ bullpen becomes that much more dominant with Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Tyler Clippard and others already established in key roles.
In addition, Graterol can also limit his innings and if things go really well (and perhaps not so well in the rotation), the Twins can stretch him out and use him as a late-season option as a starter. This wouldn’t be possible if he were throwing 6-7 inning outings while starting the season in Rochester.
The decision to keep Graterol in the pen has its risks (see Fernando Romero‘s 2019), but the upside is there for him to have a major impact on the 2020 season whether he remains in the bullpen or forces his way into the starting rotation.