Dodgers: Should Brusdar Graterol Step in as LA’s Closer Next Season?
With Kenley Jansen testing the free agency waters this offseason, one of the more pressing questions heading into 2022 is who will take over as the Dodgers closer if Jansen signs elsewhere? Blake Treinen would likely be the favorite to replace Jansen as the team’s closer next year if Jansen leaves via free agency, but LA could consider some other alternatives as well.
Looking at the current mix of Dodgers relievers on the 40-man roster, Daniel Hudson, Tommy Kahnle, Alex Vesia and Brusdar Graterol could all get a look to step into the closer’s role. Brusdar Graterol, 23, would seemingly feel like the best choice to be the Dodgers next closer of the relievers not named Blake Treinen. With his effortless ability to throw triple-digit sinkers, you would think the fireballer would be the perfect heir-apparent to be LA’s closer of the future.
Still, unfortunately, the “Bazooka” doesn’t check off every box. While his strikeout rate did improve from 14.8% (bottom 7% of MLB) in 2020 to 18% in 2021 (league average is 23.8%). Graterol hasn’t quite been able to generate the level of swing-and-miss that’s common with prototypical closers. So how does a pitcher who averages 100 MPH on his go-to pitch produce such a low strikeout rate?
The answer is that the “Bazooka’s” fastball is a sinker that induces contact rather than a four-seam fastball that is more likely to generate swing-and-miss due to a higher spin rate and perceived rise. Further, Graterol’s walk rate jumped from 3.4% in 2020 to 8.7% in 2021.
Brusdar Graterol Dodgers Closer Next Season? Who Will be LA’s Closer in 2022?
Last season, Graterol dealt with forearm tightness that sent him to the IL. He was reinstated in June and was immediately optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
“Brusdar was obviously a huge part of what we did last year. He’s going to be a huge part of what we’re going to do this year,” Roberts said after Graterol was sent down. “We just feel like right now, where he’s at, it’s a finishing school. The slider is not as consistent as it needs to be to get major league hitters out consistently. The sinker is not commanded the way it needs to be. The option allows for him to have a clear path to go out there, pitch regularly, get the sinker down in the zone and continue to work on that slider. When he does that, I expect to see him.”
After being activated in early July, Graterol had his ups and downs for the remainder of the regular season, allowing 14 runs across 30.1 innings. However, he turned the corner in the postseason, where he proved to be one of LA’s most trusted high leverage relievers.
Graterol appeared in 8 of LA’s 12 postseason games, allowing one run, on 4 hits with 7 strikeouts and no walks through 9 innings of work. He saw his strikeout rate jump up to 21.2%, which is still below league average, but a step in the right direction. Graterol needs to continue to develop his secondary pitches (slider, cutter) and maintain a certain level of consistency for longer stretches.
The potential is there for Graterol to be the Dodgers’ closer one day, but he still has work to do to be given the role on a permanent basis. In the above video, discuss if the Dodgers should consider Brusdar Graterol as the closer of the future and what he needs to do to receive strong consideration for the role. Plus, why the Dodgers would be better off using a closer-by-committee approach to getting the final three outs.
Hopefully Ian Walsh, the new pitching coach from Driveline can work with Graterol to develop his craft. I’d like to seem him come into camp in shape this year. He was way out of shape at the beginning of last year. Everything is up in the air because of the lockout. Graterol needs to take it on himself to stay on a fitness program. He has greatness in his future if he commits to it.
His being way out of shape last spring was the big secret nobody talked about. They didn’t even pitch him in spring training, and used ambiguous language to explain why, like a non-medical physical issue. He was supposed to be a major bullpen piece after a promising second half performance in 2020, but didn’t even make the team. He doesn’t really profile as a closer, sure 100+mph is sexy, but his K% is more relevant than the speed gun. Hopefully he stays healthy [remember Boston rejected him based on his medicals], and he performs well for them this coming season.
Before the start of last season, I had envisioned Graterol becoming the closer at some point last season. However, when he became injured and lost so much time, as did his growth, and it would have been that growth that would have enabled him to be the closer this season instead of Jansen, and releasing any pressure the FO might have felt to overpay Jansen to remain. Unless Graterol is able to regain what he missed out on and still grow, Treinen will undoubtedly take the closing position with Graterol getting numerous opportunities to be the guy for seasons to come.
If he learns to throw a change up and he will be a great closer.
Mariano Rivera would like to have a word with you.
Brusdar at times effortlessly blazing 103 mph in the Post was awesome to watch. He just needs to develop that swing and miss pitch like Treinen’s wicked slider that breaks 2 feet across the plate. Blake has pitched in so many high level situations and come through. He’s proven himself to be the hands down heavy favorite to replace the love hate relationship we have with Kenley. (Poor guy needed therapy after being booed so much by the Home Fans) Jansen’s in the Dodger record books for his accomplishments… its time for a new Boss. Blake in ’22
If you think The Bazooka doesn’t check off every box, then Vesia checks off one less than that. It took him 4 batters to get the final out of an inning after loading up otherwise empty bases with 3 BB in a championship game, when Duh took out Graterol who had struck out the first two batters. The only thing Vesia didn’t do was go “Full Ankiel” and try to airmail a pitch to the backscreen.
Treinen will be the closer for now.
Whomever is the Closer, will have to earn that position.
I remember when Norm Sherry suggested to Sandy Koufax that he (Sandy) did not have to throw every pitch as hard as he could. It seemed to work. Would it work for Graterol? Obviously, there are other issues with Brusdar but maybe Norm’s idea has some merritt.
His improved cutter helped him in the post-season. But sure, he should be learning a couple of pitches this winter and in spring training.
Whoever the closer turns out to be will need much more than good stuff to succeed and overcome opposing hitters. He will have to also overcome the”strategy” of a manager who is the absolute worst at decision making.