In 2014, the Twins signed Graterol out of Venezuela at age 16 for $150,000. He was just a teen throwing in the high 80s at the time, nothing special.
In February of 2015, they assigned him to the Dominican Summer League. He lasted four starts until he tore his UCL and underwent Tommy John surgery.
Graterol has gained 60 pounds since he signed, and he used his rehab period from Tommy John surgery to get stronger. After a 40-inning taste of the new Graterol in 2017, he built on those gains at two levels in 2018, helping pitch Class A Fort Myers to a Florida State League title.
Brusdar has an outstanding aptitude for the game. And his work ethic is superb.
He works real hard at improving his English.
Graterol has an endearing sense of humor.
In 2018, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Graterol as the 6th-best prospect in the Twins' organization. He was rated at #3 in the winter before 2019 spring training. He was at #4 a year later, early in 2020.
October 2018: Graterol was named the Twins MLB Pipeline Pitcher of the Year. The organization's No. 4 prospect and No. 70 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline, posted a combined 2.74 ERA with 107 strikeouts, 28 walks and three homers allowed in 102 innings between Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers.
MLB debut (Aug. 31, 2019): Brusdar Graterol has arrived.
Only days after his 21st birthday, Graterol, the top pitching prospect in the Twins' organization and ranked No. 54 overall by MLB Pipeline, received his highly anticipated first Major League callup as part of Minnesota's first wave of roster expansion.
The Twins immediately got a chance to see how the flamethrower's stuff plays at the highest level. Graterol entered in the ninth with a five-run lead and pitched a scoreless inning to close out the Twins’ 8-3 victory over the Tigers at Comerica Park. (Do-Hyoung Park - MLB.com)
May 1, 2022: Dodgers right-hander Brusdar Graterol said he got goosebumps while watching Miguel Cabrera become the first Venezuelan-born player to record 3,000 career hits.
Graterol and Cabrera shared a lengthy conversation on the field. Graterol said that he was nervous and anxious to meet Cabrera. Once he had the legend in front of him, he said, he didn’t know what to say to a player who he grew up watching as a kid in Venezuela.
“To be honest, I just told him, ‘I have no words right now,’” Graterol said in Spanish. “I congratulated him for the 3,000 hits and for all the hits that are still coming. But I didn’t know what else to tell him. I was just so excited.”
During their conversation, Graterol told Cabrera there was one other person who wanted to meet him: his mother, Ismalia. Graterol credits his mother for all his successes in life, and he wanted her to be a part of that special moment. Ismalia is also a big fan of Cabrera.
“My mom has been wanting to meet him for so long,” Graterol said. “I called her on FaceTime and we talked for a bit. It was just an unbelievable moment not just for me, but for my mom and my entire family.”
When Graterol was 15 years old, his first baseball jersey was a Cabrera one. He hoped to one day get to the big leagues, just like Cabrera. The two shared another moment and Cabrera let him know that he’ll be sending over another one of his jerseys, but this one will be signed by the future Hall of Famer.
“It’s a moment that I’ll never forget,” Graterol said. (J Toribio - MLB.com - May 1, 2022)
Oct 10, 2022: Brusdar Graterol won’t forget it. As he waited for a bus that would take him to a tryout in Maracay, a main city in Venezuela, Graterol looked over and saw a mother and her child selling fruits and vegetables.
His mother, Ysmalia, standing next to him, made sure Graterol -- who was 15 at the time -- watched closely. It wasn’t to cause him fear, but rather so he understood the importance of staying focused.
“'Look, son, if this blessing doesn’t come true, we’re going to be like that family,'” Graterol remembers his mother telling him. “That was tough when my mom showed me that reality. I didn’t say anything. But thankfully, here we are.” Here he is, serving as a big part of an elite Dodgers bullpen that helped them win a franchise-record 111 regular-season games. Los Angeles, which will go into the postseason without a set closer for the first time in a decade, will continue to lean on Graterol as it pursues a second World Series title in three years. While Graterol will surely make his presence felt by pounding 101 mph sinkers and flashing a devastating slider, the right-hander is typically much more reserved in the clubhouse. He’s also playful.
Earlier this season, Graterol, 24, wore a massive glove to batting practice, causing Phil Bickford to roll over laughing. Graterol has an Iron Man hand in his locker just in case. He frequently jokes with lockermates Hanser Alberto and Julio Urías, as well as Yency Almonte in the bullpen.
During batting practice, Graterol sometimes turns to someone nearby, flashes a big smile and challenges him to a race into the home dugout. That playful and energetic side is the one the Dodgers have enjoyed over the past two seasons. Since joining the organization in 2020, Graterol, now nicknamed Bazooka, has quickly become a fan favorite.
“I’ve had some wonderful memories in my life,” Graterol told MLB.com in Spanish. “And some tough memories."
The good memories have been on full display. He made his Major League debut with the Twins on Sept. 1, 2019, fulfilling his dream of playing in the Majors. In ‘20, he won the World Series with the Dodgers. He got married to his wife the following offseason.
But it’s those tough memories, which few people know about, that have helped shape who he is today.
Graterol grew up in Calabozo, a Venezuelan town with a population of about 100,000. He was raised by his mother, who encouraged Graterol to play different sports as a kid. She had been a softball player. He took to baseball, soccer and volleyball. But as Graterol grew older, he was also exposed to the realities that came with not having a lot of money or resources while living under a dictatorship. People often approached Graterol wondering if he was interested in stealing or selling drugs and guns. Looking for quick money, some of his childhood friends ultimately fell victim to the temptation. “Those bad influences seem attractive at one point, I can’t lie, because you’re talking about making money, you know what I mean?” Graterol said. “But I was able to fight off those bad influences because I was able to determine what I wanted in my life.”
What Graterol wanted was to pursue a career in baseball. When he turned 14, his mother asked him if he wanted to finish school or if he wanted to make baseball his profession, a difficult choice most baseball players in Latin America ultimately have to make.Graterol chose to focus on baseball.
With his mother serving as his trainer, he worked out every day. But initially, Graterol wasn’t drawing as much interest from scouts as they had hoped. The first time he visited an academy, scouts watched a much skinnier Graterol throw a fastball that topped out at 78 mph. He did not draw immediate interest, but he was given an invitation to come back one month later if he could increase his velocity.He got back to work, again pushed by his mother. She would wake him up at 5 a.m. to run laps and go through drills.
“She fought with me through everything,” Graterol said of his mother. “She’s my everything.”
Graterol returned to the academy taking part in a tryout with about 60 other pitchers. He was the last pitcher to take the mound, and this time, he turned some heads. His fastball velocity registered 84-85 mph. A number of scouts were immediately interested in signing him, but it was the Twins who swooped in and gave the right-hander a $150,000 signing bonus in 2014.
“When he started pitching, he faced two batters. But once he was finishing with the second batter, he hurt his leg a little bit,” said Jose Leon, the Twins’ scouting director in Venezuela. “But even after those two batters, we knew he was something special.”
Shortly after signing with the Twins, Graterol packed his bags and headed to the Dominican Republic. He was eager to begin his journey, something he had been dreaming about for years. But just a day after leaving his home, he received a phone call that he’ll never forget.
Graterol’s uncle passed away unexpectedly. The two were around the same age and grew up together. Graterol leaned on his uncle, whom he refers to as his brother, during some of the toughest moments of his life. To this day, Graterol continues to honor him by pointing to the sky in his end-of-inning celebration. “That’s the biggest obstacle I’ve ever faced in my life. It’s something that I didn’t think I was ever going to get through,” Graterol said. “I really did think about leaving baseball because he was the man of the house, and I was just there trying to reach my dream. Then he dies, and I start thinking, ‘OK, I’m gonna go home and be with my family and be the man of the house now.’ But I knew my mom wasn’t going to let that happen.”
He was right. After consulting with his mom and the rest of his family, Graterol stayed at the academy in the Dominican Republic, though he admitted he would’ve liked to receive permission from the Twins to fly back home to attend the funeral. But as he had done his entire life, Graterol put his head down and got to work.
Graterol made his professional debut in 2015, making four starts in the Dominican Summer League. The following season, Graterol was faced with yet another setback. He needed Tommy John surgery, ending his '16 season.
During his rehab process, Graterol dedicated himself to the gym. He added about 50-60 pounds and, once cleared to pitch again, was throwing much harder than before. In 2017, Graterol went 4-1 with a 2.70 ERA between the complex team and Rookie-level ball. In ‘18, once he got promoted to High-A in Fort Myers, Fla., Graterol took on a side job so he could send money back home to Venezuela. After a game or workout, he helped his father-in-law with construction. The work sometimes consisted of going underneath houses, eradicating mold or fixing electricity.
In order to protect his pitching hand, Graterol would use his left hand, especially when the work involved electricity. Luis Arráez, the 2022 American League batting champion and Graterol’s roommate in the Minors, would sometimes join Graterol.
“Because we needed the money,” Arráez said, laughing. “I remember a lot of good things about Brusdar. He has a lot of good energy, he’s so strong and when he wants to do something, he does it.”
That level of determination is what has gotten Graterol through the most difficult moments. Making his family proud is what makes him go. It’s what keeps him thinking positively despite making significant sacrifices, none bigger than not seeing his mother in more than six years. If the Dodgers need him in a high-leverage situation this postseason, Graterol knows he’ll be ready. After all, it’s no comparison to what he has had to go through to get to this moment.“It was tough,” Graterol said. “But God’s timing has been perfect.” (J Toribio - MLB.com - Oct 11, 2022)
August 2014: The Twins signed Graterol out of Venezuela at age 16 for $150,000.
- Feb 9, 2020: In a three-team blockbuster trade: The Red Sox got OF Alex Verdugo, SS Jeter Downs and C Connnor Wong from the Dodgers. The Dodgers got OF Mookie Betts, LHP David Price and cash from the Red Sox. The Dodgers got RHP Brusder Graterol, OF Luke Raley, and the 67th pick from the 2020 draft from the Twins. Finally: The Twins got RHP Kenta Maeda, a minor leaguer, and cash from the Dodgers.
- Jan 13, 2023: Graterol avoided arbitration agreeing to a one-year deal with the Dodgers worth $1.225 million.
|Birth City:||Calobozo, Venezuela|
|Draft:||2014 - Twins - Free agent - Out of Venezuela|
Graterol has an impressive 94-103 mph 2-seam FASTBALL that gets an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale! He also has a tight 88-90 mph SLIDER with late, cutter-type break that hitters fear as much as his heater; it grades at 60. He also has an 88-91 mph CHANGEUP that flashes 50 grade.
Graterol’s mid-80s slider is a double-plus pitch that he can land for strikes when behind in the count or backdoor to lefthanded batters. He also uses it to expand the zone against righthanded batters. His fringe-average changeup is less seen but effective in spots. (Spring, 2020)
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 11.7% of the time; Sinker 55.6%; Change 1.9%; and Slider 30.9% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 98.9, Sinker 99.1, Change 90.8, and Slider 88.4 mph.
2020 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 3.6% of the time; Sinker 66.1%; Change less than 1%; and Slider 30.1% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 99.1 Sinker 99.5, Change 92.1, and Slider 89.1 mph.
2022 Season Pitch Usage/Avg. Velo: Sinker 43.2% - 100 mph; Cutter 29.3% - 95.5 mph; Slider 17.6% - 90.7 mph; Fastball 10% - 99.5 mph.
Brusdar underwent Tommy John surgery. And he worked very hard at his rehab program. He completely remade his body, packing on over 50 pounds of good weight, most notably in his legs and torso.
“Some guys use the rehab process to do a lot of work on more than their arm,” Twins 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.”
After missing all of 2016, the transformation—surgery, maturity and 60 pounds of muscle—has produced a pitcher who occasionally hit 100 mph at Rookie-level Elizabethton.
“He’s one of our hardest throwers, but he’s still got a really effective breaking ball,” Radcliff said after the 2017 season. “He’s got what you would rate as top-of-the-rotation potential, but it’s very early, of course.” (Phil Miller - Baseball America - 12/08/2017)
Graterol has front-of-the-rotation potential with a chance to have four 50 grade-or-better pitches. His heater is already a 60+ pitch.
October 2018: Graterol was named MLB Pipeline's Twins Pitching Prospects of the Year.
Graterol studies video of All-Star righty Jose Berrios and patterns his approach after him, on and off the mound.
In 2019, Brusdar raked in Eastern League honors in Baseball America's Best Tools Survey of manager, coaches and evaluators. Graterol was Best Pitching Prospect, Best Fastball and Best Breaking Ball.
Graterol has the upside of a top-end starter and the floor of a power reliever. The development of his changeup and the maintenance of his body will go a long way toward determining which path he takes. (Spring, 2020)
Sergio Romo made a motion as if raising a rocket launcher to his right shoulder and made blasting noises when asked about 21-year-old teammate Brusdar Graterol.
"'The Human Bazooka.' Whatever that thing is," Romo said, gesturing to the invisible weapon on his shoulder. "I asked him what it was. And he's like, 'Bazooka! Bazooka!'"
That's how colorfully excited Romo is about the prospect of Graterol's big right arm and his triple-digit fastball moving to the bullpen alongside several of the Twins' other impact relievers, including Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Tyler Clippard and Romo himself.
Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson revealed on the Twins Winter Caravan that the team planned to leave Graterol in the bullpen for now instead of stretching him back out as a starter, which had been his role throughout his Minor League career. Graterol said that he could see himself as either a starter or a closer in the future and was ready to take on whatever role the team asked of him in order to remain in the Major Leagues.
"I really enjoyed it," Graterol said of pitching in relief. "I learned a lot, and if they give me the opportunity to do it again, that's what I'll do."
Not only did Graterol set a Twins record by throwing a fastball at 101.9 mph in 2019, but he also impressed Romo and other teammates with his maturity and composure on the mound in tough situations. He finished out his season with a scoreless inning of relief in Game 1 of the ALDS at Yankee Stadium. (DH Park - MLB.com - Jan 25, 2020)
April 10, 2020: A successor to closer Kenley Jansen had to be at least part of the thought process when the Dodgers acquired Graterol from the Twins in February for Kenta Maeda. And the Venezuelan looked even more like a late-innings option in Spring Training with a triple-digit sinking fastball and an easy delivery. MLB Pipeline has the 21-year-old right-hander ranked as the system's No. 5 prospect.
Although he's already had Tommy John surgery (2016) and a shoulder impingement last year, Graterol recovered to make a stretch impact for the Twins and had an overpowering inning in his only postseason appearance in Yankee Stadium, no easy assignment for a 21-year-old. In addition to the health issues, Graterol will need to watch his weight. But you can't teach 100 mph, so he's definitely closer material. (K Gurnick - MLB.com - April 10, 2020)
Dodgers fans enamored with reliever Brusdar and his triple-digit fastball have only scratched the surface of what the 21-year-old rookie has brought to the Dodgers.
Let manager Dave Roberts pull back the curtain a little on what Graterol brings when he’s not on the mound. “We didn’t know a lot about Brusdar,” said Roberts. “The one thing I see, he shags three groups a day. For a reliever, to just be out there and just be grateful he’s a big league ballplayer out on a big league field running balls down, serving his teammates, I love seeing that.
“He’s got this crazy big truck that he used to honk the horn when he would leave Summer Camp 2020, and we would all know he was leaving. He’s in the ‘pen and he’s sort of like a cheerleader. When a guy hits a home run or makes a great play, he’s like re-enacting it. Guys have really gravitated toward him. So I think for me, it’s just that youthful enthusiasm component that’s certainly refreshing.”
Graterol came to the Dodgers in the unusual trade that sent Kenta Maeda (with the Dodgers paying his $10 million salary) and Minor Leaguer Jair Camargo to the Twins for Graterol and outfielder Luke Raley, after Graterol failed a Red Sox physical that nixed a trade to Boston in the original Mookie Betts deal.
In 10 appearances with the Dodgers, Graterol has allowed four runs in 9 2/3 innings, with seven strikeouts, one walk and no homers. Graterol’s sinker is averaging 98.9 mph and he’s throwing it more this year than he did last year. While his strikeout percentage is down slightly from last year (25% to 20%), his walk percentage is down significantly (5.0% to 2.9%). (Gurnick - mlb.com - 8/20/2020)
2020 Season: Lost in the craziness of the massive Mookie Betts trade, the Dodgers also acquired RHP Brusdar Graterol from the Twins in exchange for Kenta Maeda.
The 22-year-old quickly won over the hearts of Dodgers fans thanks to his smile and energy in the bullpen and on the mound. He appeared in 23 games for LA, including two brief starts. He posted a 3.09 ERA and 3.41 FIP, but posted an incredible WHIP of 0.90.
Graterol’s damage came against righthanded hitters in 2020. They hit only .164 off of him, compared to lefties who hit .360. Nearly 85 percent of his strikeouts came against righties too.
He was nicknamed the “Bazooka”, and for good reason. Graterol had electric stuff and was must-see television every time he took the mound. His sinker averaged 99.3 mph, with his fastball averaging 98.8 mph. Oh, don’t worry, he threw off-speed stuff too. His changeup only averaged 92.1 mph. Graterol has the stuff to make him an elite closer in the game. We’ve seen it at times, and he looks practically un-hittable out there. For him, he just needs to work on getting more swings and misses with his stuff.
His strikeout percentage was only 14.8 percentage and he averaged only 5.0 strikeouts per nine innings. If he’s going to take that next step and become a dominant reliever, he’s going to need to get those strikeout numbers up significantly.
After a shaky seven-game start to his Dodgers career, Graterol really settled down and gained confidence as the season went on. Over his final 16 games he posted an ERA of 2.16. However, the strikeouts were low. In 16.2 innings, he struck out only seven.
During LA’s postseason run, Graterol was used nine times. With the exception of his three-run outing in Game 4 of the NLCS, he was great for the Dodgers. In his other eight appearances, Graterol threw 6.2 innings of scoreless ball. He allowed only three hits and struck out four. (BlakeHarris@BlakeHarrisTBLA - Dec 11, 2020)
June 5, 2021: With the regular season two months old, Graterol has recorded 1 1/3 innings over three relief outings. He allowed three earned runs on three hits, walked two and had one strikeout.
Prior to the beginning of the season, the electric reliever experienced some setbacks. Graterol’s Spring Training program was delayed after he experienced several limitations during the offseason, which manager Dave Roberts explained contributed to Graterol's slow start.
"I think that's a big part of it. I think that some of the things were out of Brusdar's control, some things -- to be quite frank -- were in his control,” Roberts said. “But it's where we're at right now, and how do we go from here to there, and this is what we feel is best for him and the Dodgers.”
The Dodgers determined Graterol’s sinker and slider are not at the level they'd like to see, especially since those are the pitches he relies on most. Opposing teams are hitting .600 against his sinker with an .800 slugging percentage, according to Statcast. On that pitch, he has a 0.0 putaway percentage (a metric used to determine the rate of two-strike pitches that result in a strikeout).
"He's healthy, the ball's coming out, but the slider is not as consistent as it needs to be to get Major League hitters out consistently, and the sinker is not commanded the way it needs to be,” Roberts said. (M Garcia - MLB.com - June 5, 2021)
- 2021 Season: Graterol recorded 4.59 ERA in 34 games. Proving that velocity is great, but being able to miss bats is even better.
He was much more effective in the playoffs. The Bazooka owned a 1.00 ERA in eight postseason games in 2021.
At the beginning of the 2022 season, Brusdar had a record of 5-3 with an ERA of 4.07. He had given up 4 home runs and 62 hits in 66 innings.
2022 Season: Brusdar Graterol was expected to play a key role in the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen during the 2022 season, but injuries limited his usage in what was overall a quality year.
In his first 37 games of the season, Graterol pitched to a 3.35 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 0.97 WHIP, 21.9% strikeout rate and 6.3% walk rate over 40.1 innings. He also added three saves in four opportunities as his role and importance to the bullpen increased following injuries to Blake Treinen, Tommy Kahnle and Daniel Hudson.
However, on July 14, Graterol was placed on the 15-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation. It came roughly a week after Graterol was removed from a game due to side soreness, and the Dodgers expressed optimism that he would avoid a trip on the IL.
Graterol missed more than a month while on the IL despite the club’s hope his time on the shelf would be a brief stint. He didn’t return until August 22.
The right-hander made four more appearances for the team after being activated, but found himself back on the IL on September 1 due to right elbow soreness. Graterol returned to the team three weeks later as his attention shifted to preparing for the postseason.
He ended up allowing three earned runs in his five appearances to close out the season and finished the year throwing 49.2 innings with a 3.26 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 0.99 WHIP, 21.8% strikeout rate and 5.1% walk rate.
Graterol made the Dodgers postseason roster and in his first appearance, he earned a hold while throwing 0.1 scoreless inning in the Game 1 win against the San Diego Padres during the National League Division Series.
During his second appearance the following day, Graterol gave up one unearned run over one inning and was credited with the loss. He did not appear again before the Dodgers were eliminated in the NLDS. (Blake Williams - Jan. 7, 2023)
2016: Graterol was on the DL the entire season following Tommy John surgery.
May 8-14, 2018: Brusdar was on the DL.
May 30-June 6, 2018: Graterol was back on the DL two weeks later.
May 25-Aug. 7, 2019: Brusdar was on the IL with a shoulder impingement. He missed almost 3 months.
March 5, 2021: Graterol dealt with things over the offseason, according to Roberts, which limited the right-hander more than he and the team would’ve liked. The current plan is to get Graterol to throw off the mound in the next couple of days. It’s still unclear when he’ll appear in a game.
“He’s coming along really well,” Roberts said. “There were some things this winter that didn’t allow for him to get off the mound and throw as consistently as he would’ve liked coming into camp. [We] just want to make sure he stays healthy, so the ramp-up has been a little different for him.”
Roberts said that what limited Graterol over the offseason wasn’t a surgery or anything of that sort. He added, “It’s just more kind of stuff of what’s going on in our world.”(J Toribio - MLB.com - March 5, 2021)
April 1-18, 2021: Graterol began the season on the IL.
April 29, 2021: Graterol was on the IL with right forearm tightness.
May 28, 2021: Graterol threw a 15-20 pitch live batting practice session against Cody Bellinger and Zach McKinstry, according to manager Dave Roberts. Graterol will stay with the Triple-A Oklahoma City team and will appear in a few games. There’s still no timetable for his return, but he’s getting closer.
July 11-Aug 22, 2022: Graterol was on the IL with right shoulder inflammation.
- Aug 31-Sept 22, 2022: Brusdar was on the IL with right elbow inflammation.