It could not have been easy for the Boston Red Sox to come to the decision to trade Mookie Betts and David Price, which they reportedly agreed to do Tuesday.
But in pulling the trigger on the blockbuster deal, Boston did net some high-end, young talent that will be under team control for years.
The Red Sox reportedly sent Betts and Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a deal that included the Minnesota Twins as well. In return, the Red Sox are getting outfielder Alex Verdugo and pitcher Brusdar Graterol, the latter of whom is from Minnesota’s system.
So, who are Verdugo and Graterol?
Verdugo is not quite the *unknown* commodity he was just a few years ago. The 23-year-old has appeared in the big leagues each of the last three seasons, playing 106 games with the Dodgers in 2019. In those 106 games he hit .294 with 12 homers and 44 RBIs.
Prior to last season, Verdugo ranked as the No. 19 prospect in Major League Baseball by Baseball Prospectus. He projects to hit with a fair amount of power, but also contact (his overall hitting ability ranked highest of any Dodgers prospect prior to last season). But despite his high offensive upside, his arm is what really has gotten folks’ attention.
From his 2018 MLB Pipeline scouting report:
“As good as he is in the batter’s box, Verdugo’s best tool actually is his plus-plus arm. Despite average speed, he has spent much of his pro career in center field, where his instincts help him get the job done. Scouts are split on whether he can handle center on a daily basis in the Majors, but no one doubts that his arm would play in right.”
Given his MLB experience, there’s a good chance Verdugo slots right in as an everyday player for the Red Sox as soon as this season. According to Statcast, Verdugo does rank higher as a defender than Andrew Benintendi in most categories, though their sprint speeds are about the same. Still though, it seems most likely the Red Sox would try Verdugo in right field and keep Benintendi in left field.
Verdugo is arbitration eligible in 2022 and will hit free agency in 2025.
Graterol has far less big league experience, but in the same Baseball Prospectus ranking that had Verdugo at 19th in MLB, Graterol was listed at 33rd.
The Venezuelan righty has just 11 MLB appearances under his belt (one of which was in the American League Division Series), all last season. He went 1-1 with a 4.66 ERA for the Twins out of the bullpen. That’s a pretty small sample size to base an opinion off of, so here are some more concrete details.
He boasts an electric sinker that tops out at 101 mph and sits at 99, and he uses that pitch 67.4 percent of the time, according to FanGraphs. He mostly uses his slider otherwise, with the occasional changeup mixed in.
“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.”
Brusdar Graterol brought the ? tonight with seven pitches over ? mph for the #MNTwins:
His final line: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K pic.twitter.com/JOVbAXs97v
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 15, 2019
While his MLB performance hasn’t been eye-popping, his arm is impressive and there’s plenty of room for growth. He’s not arbitration-eligible until 2023 and won’t hit free agency until 2026.
It’s not impossible Graterol becomes a starter one day, either. In fact, he has been brought up through the Twins farm system largely as a starter. Here’s a nugget from a talent evaluator, via Boston Sports Journal’s Sean McAdam.
Talent evaluator on RHP Brusdar Graterol: Ceiling of a No 2-3 starter, floor of a power set-up man. Still needs half-year of development time at AAA.
— Sean McAdam (@Sean_McAdam) February 5, 2020
While we’ll have to wait and see how both players translate to the Red Sox, but there’s plenty of reason to be excited about their upside and the impact they could have well into the decade.