Before the start of the 2020 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers completed a blockbuster trade with the Boston Red Sox to acquire Mookie Betts and David Price.
The deal originally was supposed to be a three-team trade between the Dodgers, Red Sox and Minnesota Twins. Kenta Maeda was going to be sent to Minnesota and Twins pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol was headed to Boston.
The Red Sox took issue with Graterol’s medical records, which put the trade on hold for more than a week. Eventually, the three teams were able to sort everything out and complete two separate deals.
It resulted in the Dodgers acquiring Graterol for themselves and sending two other prospects in Jeter Downs and Connor Wong to Boston. The change wound up being beneficial for L.A.
Although Graterol is just 22 years of age, his stuff is absolutely electric and he already proved to be one of the Dodgers’ best relievers in his first full Major League season.
Sporting a fastball that consistently reaches triple digits in addition to a wipeout slider and an infectious, energetic personality, Graterol immediately became a fan-favorite.
He appeared in 23 regular-season games in 2020, going 1-2 with a 3.09 ERA, 3.41 FIP and 0.90 WHIP with 13 strikeouts and three walks in 23.1 innings.
The righty continued to be an essential part of the Dodgers’ bullpen in the postseason and saw similar success as the regular season. In 10 appearances during October, Graterol finished with one save, a 3.12 ERA and 0.81 WHIP while striking out six and walking one in 8.2 innings.
Graterol had a number of stellar outings in 2020, but his most interesting certainly came against the San Diego Padres in Game 2 of the National League Division Series. Graterol entered the game with two outs and a runner on first in the seventh inning, trying to protect a 4-3 lead.
He was facing one of the other bright young stars in baseball in Fernando Tatis Jr., who proceeded to launch a fly ball to deep center field. Cody Bellinger timed it perfectly to make a leaping catch that robbed Tatis of a go-ahead home run.
Graterol’s reaction was so pure as he threw both his glove and cap in celebration, which Manny Machado took exception to.
When Graterol realized Machado was yelling expletives, he turned and blew a kiss. The right-hander then came back out for the next inning and got him to ground out to begin a 1-2-3 frame. The Dodgers went on to win Game 2 and completed a sweep of the Padres the next night.
There is no doubt that Graterol will once again be a big contributor out of the bullpen for the Dodgers next season, the only question is if he will be their closer.
With Kenley Jansen struggling in 2020, it could be time for a change at the backend of the bullpen, and Graterol certainly has the stuff to be a closer in the big leagues.
His strikeout rate was lower than expected, so he may not be ready to be a full-time closer just yet. Furthermore, Graterol’s role could be impacted by the trade for Corey Knebel.
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