The Twins are thrilled with the effect that Tommy John surgery had on righthander Brusdar Graterol. And on his elbow, too.
The 19-year-old Venezuelan is pitching without pain again, but the bigger story is that Graterol is, well, bigger.
“Some guys use the rehab process to do a lot of work on more than their arm,” vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said. “He did good things with nutrition, with his legs, with his overall strength. He used the time to get bigger, and it’s turned him from just a system guy into a legitimate prospect.”
Graterol didn’t cost the Twins much when they signed him as a 16-year-old in 2015, mostly because “he was just a really skinny guy throwing about 87-88 (mph),” Radcliff said. “We liked his pitches, but he’s one of those guys who you just can’t predict a transformation like this.”
The “transformation”—surgery, maturity and 60 pounds of muscle—has produced, after missing all of 2016, a pitcher who occasionally hit 100 mph this season at Rookie-level Elizabethton.
“He’s one of our hardest throwers, but he’s still got a really effective breaking ball,” Radcliff said. “He’s got what you would rate as top-of-the-rotation potential, but it’s very early, of course.”
First, Graterol will have to prove that he and his new elbow ligament can handle the workload of a starter. Considering his age and injury history, the Twins don’t plan to test that ability for awhile. They imposed a strict five-inning or 75-pitch limit in 2017, and Graterol threw just 40 innings all summer.
But the results were riveting: 45 strikeouts, 26 hits and a 2.70 ERA overall. He held batters to a .194 average and allowed two home runs.
“He’s dominating with velocity now, like a lot of guys at that level, so he’ll have to learn to manage a game and use his other pitches to get batters out,” Radcliff said. “But he maintains 100 (mph) for five innings already. With that body, if he keeps that up, he’s got a chance to have an 8 fastball (on the 2-8 scouting scale).”