Who Is Kendall Graveman?

graveman

S- S- S- St- Stoeten doesn’t believe in me?? Wunnhmpf…

Jays fans who always keep one eye on the minors — for non-prospects even, apparently! — sure have had one interesting case to look at in recent weeks: Kendall Graveman.

Superficially, there sure is a lot to like. After starting the year in Lansing, Graveman has moved up three levels, pitching in Dunedin, New Hampshire, and just now having arrived in Buffalo, and the results have looked pretty spectacular. Across all levels he has an ERA of 1.87 and a WHIP of 1.05. He’s held opponents to a .232/.274/.273 line.

In the last week Jays Journal has looked at his quick ascent, wondering what the rush is, and whether a cynical Alex Anthopoulos might be trying to make it appear to potential trade partners that he has more high-level prospects than he really does — which… I like this theory. Baseball Hot Corner, on the other hand, profiled him as an under-the-radar pitcher who could make some noise, which included some of my objections — not particularly subtle as they were over Twitter.

I don’t think it’s particularly clear either way what he is or will be. It never is with prospects, but I think it’s especially so in this case, since not a whole lot of evaluators writing on the web make the effort to check out guys in the low minors who were drafted in the 36th round as college juniors, then the eighth round as no-leverage seniors who accept $5,000 bonuses when the slot value for their pick is $150,000 — which is precisely Graveman’s story.

That story also makes him, at age 23, quite old to be considered a prospect in the Midwest League, where he made his first four starts of the year, posting an ERA of 0.34. In the Florida State League at Dunedin, where he made 16 starts and posted a 2.23 ERA, he was a shade below a league average for pitchers that’s inflated by rehab assignment and org. guys who still haven’t figured it out. In other words, what some — me, for example — might call the “real” prospects are guys like Dan Norris, pitching at age 21, or Roberto Osuna at 19.

On the other hand, Graveman has acquitted himself nicely in his starts above A-ball — all two of them — combining for 12 innings of 2.25 ERA, giving up eight hits, three earned, and two walks. And he was the top drafted pitcher on the 2013 Mississippi State team that went to the College World Series — which has to count for something… probably… right?

And we do have a pair of public sector eyes that have seen Graveman as a pro — Marc Hulet of FanGraphs, just over a year ago — and he actually saw the seeds of this coming (while in the same piece offering praise for Dalton Pompey!):

Graveman, 22, faced off against the 17-year-old Urias on Aug. 22. I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw out of the Jays prospect. He showed a smooth, easy delivery and worked quickly. He also, perhaps more importantly, threw strikes. I saw him use three pitches: a fringe-average fastball, an inconsistent breaking ball and a solid changeup. The breaking ball was actually better than advertised and showed a nice 12-to-6 break at times from his three-quarter release point.

He could be a fast mover for the Jays and likely has the ceiling of a No. 4/5 starter or middle reliever.

See, now that sounds a whole lot more reasonable than dreams of sparkling ERAs continuing on forever! Especially since some of the underlying numbers don’t exactly scream someone who “could have an outside look of making the Jays next year,” as MLB Hot Corner’s Daniel Levitt wrote. From the excellent MLB Farm we see that his groundball rate on balls in play has been very good (60%), but his line drive rate of less than 10% isn’t exactly sustainable, nor is the one home run he’s given up on 104 flyballs. And it’s not like he’s showing a whole lot of swing-and-miss, even though he’s been advanced for the levels he’s pitched at — he was less than strikeout per nine at Lansing, and at Dunedin and beyond his K/9 rate has been below six.

If he can throw strikes and keep the ball on the ground, it’s not impossible for a pitcher to be able to have some kind of success at the highest level, I suppose, even with a fringe-average fastball. And I certainly haven’t seen him myself, or read enough about his stuff, his mechanics, his repertoire, or any of that to know whether or not anything has changed to give us more reason to believe the good and discount the bad. It’s possible. It would be great if it had. It’s just… I wouldn’t be so fast to swallow all that — certainly not as fast as the Jays have been with moving Graveman up the ladder.

Comments (76)

  1. With a name like Graveman you had to know he’d make the show.

    Sportsnet writers need to have their pun headlines.

    • Looks like he just got put into detox in that picture..

      Tell the kid that the Betty Ford is for quitters. We don’t want quitters on this team.

    • His talent projects him as a number 4/5 starter or middle reliever, but his name projects him as the most dominant closer of all time.

  2. https://twitter.com/keithlaw/status/496339349412544512

    This is what the klaw said when i asked him about Graveman.

  3. Maybe we could Nestor Molina him for something.

    • We lost that trade somehow

      • How did we lose that trade, Nestor Molina has amounted to nothing in the Chi Sox system, and at least we got some big league help from Santos.

        • Agreed. Santos could still amount to something which is more than Nestor Molina.

        • We still had to pay Santos. I haven’t done the exact $/WAR calculation but I’m pretty sure 20 good innings and 30 or so shitty ones don’t add up to the millions we paid for him to spend most of his tenure with us on the DL and/or in the minors. At least chicago got 0 WAR for $0 which is market rate.

      • We got more out of Jose Molina than the Sox got out of Nestor Molina

  4. Our Saviour!!!!

  5. Off topic, but one Aaron Cibia has been doin’ OK in Texas since his last callup…

    .262/.338/.607 with a wRC+ of 157. Only 68 at bats, but hey…go JP!

    • And off topic.
      Fangraphs picked up Drew Fairservice.

      • Very good news.

      • Good gig. Congrats to him.

      • Not too surprising. He does good work and has likely made some good connections. Great for him. Congrats Drew!

        • Somehow, The Score believed that platform and not content was pivotal to higher readership. Dumb.

          • Well, except for the part where the numbers say that it is.

            Anyway, I can’t really say too much, obviously, but Parkes offered his thoughts on this week’s Canadaland podcast: http://canadalandshow.com/podcast/score

            Should probably note, though, I completely disagree with some of what he’s saying about the value of sportswriting. I think that when it’s done well it’s a terrific way to introduce big and interesting and important ideas to a lot of people who wouldn’t necessarily encounter or be receptive to them. There’s all sorts more to it than that, obviously, but the way that so many have been exposed to new ways of thinking about gender issues, LGBT equality issues, etc. through the prism of sports? That’s pretty powerful stuff, to me. Even in terms of articulating arguments for critical thinking, raising sociological questions or ones about the nature of human behaviour — maybe I’m just kidding myself, but I think that has great value. I don’t think it’s entirely trivial. However, while I’m not particularly thrilled that that kind of writing appears to be losing ground as a commodity to the Buzzfeed-ification of content, I entirely agree with Parkes when he says he completely understands what’s happening from a business perspective too. Art and commerce, have they ever been at odds before?

      • Go Drew!! that is a good pick up. The score was dumb. Is the podcast now dead?

  6. IF he ever does turn into a back of the rotation type, or even a middle reliever, that would still be a pretty great return on a “punt” pick

    • Yeah. You’d obviously like every prospect to be a superstar, but becoming a regular on a big league roster is a huge achievement.

  7. Will all the post titles today be questions?

  8. I think that’s the first time I’ve seen a slash line where the slugging was lower than OBP. I know it’s averaged out, but sheeeeesh, impressive none the less

  9. Best case scenario, (# 4/5 SP or mid reliever) is pretty damn good and has me thinking they’ll be calling him up in Sep.
    The more viable pieces they have, the more likely it is they can deal for what they need.

  10. homegrown buehrle?

    • Buerhles had a fantastic career, had a perfect game and a no hitter, and earned tens of millions of dollars.

      Nothing this guy has done so far has made it likely he’ll even be a major league pitcher. The gulf (at this point) between the two is ginormously huge.

      Doesn’t mean this Graveman guy can’t or won’t become a solid pitcher. But come on. This is a guy with 12 IP above A+. Even if he was perfect in those innings, the sample is so massively tiny that it means literally nothing.

      The ONLY reason we even know his name is because he’s been inexplicably promoted to AAA.

  11. I think I might be too afraid to watch the game. Pre game alcohol intake will have to be increased substantially.

    • I am really not the type to overstate the importance of a single game or series – but there is definitely a feeling about these 3 games that has the do or die feel. Clearly a losing streak or winning streak for the Jays or Orioles could make these 3 meaningless(ish), but if feels important for sure.

      • Jays need to make a statement tonight. It’s gotta be loud and it’s gotta be clear.

        • I hope its a big “FUCK YOU” to the O’s bench from each and every player who goes deep.

          Maybe Canadian Jesus can come off the bench, go yard, do a WWF style pose down as he’s rounding 1st whilst frothing at the mouth.

    • Just finished my 1st Pilsner Urquell. May have to kick things up a notch if I’m to be good and ready for game time.

  12. Ii imagine the rush to the high minors has more to do with the fact he is a college guy. The did something similar with Stroman (though obviously Stroman was WAY more highly regarded). It doesn’t help them much to have some guy in low A who is 23 putting up insane numbers. Better to see what you have against guys who are similar age in AA or even AAA. Maybe AA sees him as a long-shot for bull pen options in September? Nice to see a guy do well but no reason to change the undies just yet.

    • I’m on board this theory, too. If a pitcher is 23 and pitching at a low level, there’s really no harm in rushing him up. If you’re patient with him he’ll be 26-27 by the time he even reaches the high minors. You might as well challenge him and see what he can do.

      The only thing that seems odd with this theory is that he made one start at Double A before moving up. I would think you at least give him a handful of starts to see how he/his competition adjust. Oh well. They know a whole lot more than I do about this.

  13. Everytime I see his name I want to say ” Captain Cavemaaaaan!!@

  14. I’m sure most reading this blog are too young to remember captain caveman

  15. I pointed him out on Saturday when I noticed that he was starting for Buffalo

    Neat to see, hopefully he continues to do well

  16. That game was a WHIP buster!

  17. The Next Todd Redmond!

    • That’s probably a fair assessment. Or maybe the next Liam Hendricks? For the record, I think that’s a useful piece, and every team needs (multiple) guys like that in case of injury. Remember that week a few years ago when Drabek, Hutchison AND Morrow were lost to injury? As of right now, the Blue Jays AAA rotation depth seems to be Sean Nolin and (ugh) Brad Mills.

  18. […] more on exactly who Graveman is, because lets be honest, nobody actually knows who he is, check out Andrew Stoeten’s post that talks about him on DJF from a week ago. After you have, watch this GIF of all 11 groundouts […]

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