The decision to trade Mookie Betts will come under enormous scrutiny, but Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom managed to acquire an interesting pitching prospect in the deal.
Brusdar Graterol, who was one of the top prospects in the Twins organization, has tremendous potential. He ranked 53rd on MLB.com’s list of the top 100 prospects in 2019.
Here’s the prospect scouting report on Graterol:
“Graterol’s stuff continues to get better the more he matures and the further removed from surgery he gets. His fastball touches triple digits and will often sit in the 96-98 mph range, with an ability to maintain velocity deep into starts.
“Throwing with plenty of sink, Graterol misses bats and gets a ton of ground-ball outs off of his fastball. When he committed to throw the harder version of his slider, in the 87-89 mph range, it trended toward plus, but he would back off of it at times. Continued separation between that and his slower curve will help, as will further refinement of his changeup.”
According to the Globe’s Alex Speier, Graterol projects as a potential front-of-the-rotation starter, or valuable specialist.
He made his major league debut in 2019, pitching 9⅔ innings over 10 appearances, with 10 strikeouts.
Here are a few things to know about him:
■ He has elite velocity
The most notable thing about Graterol is his velocity. During his time in the minor leagues, Graterol once hit 103.8 miles per hour on the radar gun.
He’s also shown his overpowering stuff at the major league level:
Here’s footage of him warming up in 2018 during his time in the minor leagues:
■ The Twins organization and other experts think highly of him
One way to gauge a player’s value is by examining what his previous team (and the reporters who cover it) have said about him. In this regard, the Red Sox have reason to be optimistic.
“There is no question that the Twins are opening themselves up to be second-guessed for years to come,” wrote Aaron Gleeman, the Twins writer for The Athletic. Gleeman labeled Graterol an “awfully big chip,” noting that he was set to place third out of 40 in an upcoming ranking of Twins prospects.
Aside from his ability on the field, Graterol’s character was praised in a tweet from Minnesota’s Double A affiliate:
That's Anna in the Wahoos hat. It was her job to escort Brusdar Graterol back to the clubhouse after our team autograph session. He refused to leave until he signed for every fan waiting.— Pensacola Blue Wahoos (@BlueWahoosBBall) February 5, 2020
This picture was taken 30 minutes after the signing ended.
You got a good one, Boston. pic.twitter.com/o8BJ02aDiZ
■ He comes with a history of injuries
Potentially the largest concern regarding Graterol will be durability. As Phil Miller of the Minnesota Star-Tribune noted, Graterol’s perceived career trajectory had already been altered because of injuries.
“Graterol missed all of 2016 and half of 2017 after undergoing elbow surgery, and spent more than two months last summer on the injured list because of an impingement,” wrote Miller. “The Twins brought him to the majors in September as a reliever, and perhaps suspecting that he would have trouble remaining healthy as a starter, last month revealed their plan to leave him in the bullpen, at least for 2020.”
One additional note: Boston will have its newest pitcher on a lower salary for several years. Graterol is not arbitration-eligible until 2023 and can’t become an unrestricted free agent until 2026.
. . .
The player the Red Sox are acquiring from the Dodgers to fill one of their outfield spots is 23-year-old Alex Verdugo.
Clearly, the task of replacing Betts in the lineup is immense for a player with 158 games of major league experience over three seasons. But Verdugo is undeniably talented.
Taken in the second round of the 2014 MLB draft, Verdugo made his major league debut when he was 21 in 2017. In 158 games with the Dodgers, he has a career OPS of .784. And the Arizona native has logged at least 37 games at each outfield position.
■ He has a lot of natural talent, including a “plus-plus arm”
A 2018 MLB.com scouting report on Verdugo labeled him “one of the best pure hitting prospects in baseball.”
In 2017, he hit .314 at the Triple A level of the Dodgers system, improving in 2018 to hit for a .329 average. In 106 games a season ago at the major league level, Verdugo hit .294 with a .342 on-base percentage.
Like Betts, Verdugo isn’t a one-tool player.
“As good as he is in the batter’s box,” read the 2018 scouting report, “Verdugo’s best tool actually is his plus-plus arm.”
During a game against the Red Sox in 2019, Verdugo threw out Rafael Devers at home plate from left field. The throw’s velocity topped out at 97 miles per hour, demonstrating how he was also once seen as a high school pitching prospect:
■ This wasn’t the first trade he was linked with
Given that he’s been a top-100 prospect for several years, Verdugo’s name has come up in trade rumors before. The involvement helped him mature as a professional.
“It kind of got in my head a little bit,” Verdugo noted in a 2019 interview. “But I feel like the last few years, I’m like, hey man it’s a compliment, really. It just means that other teams see you as a good player, good enough to be in a lot of these big headliner trades.”
■ His enthusiasm and energy have drawn praise
One of the aspects of replacing Betts that’s especially tough to measure is intangibles, such as a player’s day-to-day enthusiasm. It appears that the Dodgers were fans of the energy Verdugo regularly brought to the team.
“I love Dugie,” said pitcher Clayton Kershaw in 2019. “I love him. He’s great. Ton of energy, every single day. And good energy too, super competitive. Incredible instincts on the baseball field. Can put him in any outfield spot.”
“Guys rally around him and pull for him,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said last May. “When he gets out there, the fans get into it. The players get into it. I get into it.”
This contrasts with a well-publicized incident in 2017 when Verdugo — recently called up for the first time — was late arriving for a game, and was promptly yelled at by Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill. It appears Verdugo was able to learn from his mistake.
■ He’s recovering from a back injury
One thing that Red Sox fans might have to have with Verdugo in the short term is patience. He missed the final two months of the 2019 season (and playoffs) with a back injury, and is still working his way back.
In January, speaking with reporters at a holiday event in Los Angeles, Verdugo said he was being cautious, given the location of the injury.
“Any activity you do, any daily, regular [activity], your back helps you with a lot of it,” Verdugo told reporters. “You kind of do one little thing and then you realize the toll it takes on everything else.
“So it is frustrating, but at the end of the day, all I can do is stay positive and just be blessed that I’m going in the right direction.”
“My goal is obviously going to be starting Opening Day. I want to be out there Opening Day. We’ll just go from there, see how the days and weeks start compiling and how I recover.”
■ He represented Mexico at the World Baseball Classic
Verdugo is Mexican-American and played for Mexico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Then just a minor league prospect with the Dodgers, Verdugo impressed. He hit .357 (5 for 14) and scored three runs in three games.
While playing in Los Angeles, Verdugo received strong support from Dodgers fans for his usage of “Volver, Volver” as a walk-up song.
“That is something I like to listen to,” Verdugo explained. “My father, growing up, every time I am in the car with him, anytime I am cleaning the house, he would be playing Vicente [Fernandez] and all these other artists. It is just something I grew up listening to. Being Mexican, we like to dance and we get emotional, so when they listen, they love to hear it.”
■ He already has signed his name inside the Green Monster
During the Dodgers’ visit to Fenway Park in 2019, Verdugo was given a tour of the ballpark, including inside the Green Monster. Verdugo’s signature included an addition that might require amending.