It’s a great time to be a pitcher: The marketplace for hurlers has been ablaze with rumors and signings, and we haven’t even reached Thanksgiving. The most recent transfer comes from the White Sox, who’ve signed reliever Kendall Graveman to a three-year, $24 million deal, per MLB Community’s Jon Heyman. He’s already the fifth pitcher to signal a multi-year deal to date this offseason, and the sixth pitcher to come back off our Prime 50 free agent record, the place he was ranked at No. 45.
Graveman spent his mid-20s as a starter for the A’s, posting elite ground-ball charges and minimal strikeouts — a recipe that by no means fairly labored out, as by the point he had Tommy John surgical procedure in 2018, he had a profession ERA of 4.38, a FIP of 4.54, and a strikeout charge of solely 15%. He returned to the large leagues in 2020 with the Mariners, which is the place we first received a glimpse of his new kind, with a 3.60 ERA and three.09 FIP in a month of bullpen work to shut out the season.
His profitable transition to the ‘pen after struggling as a starter is hardly a brand new story, but Graveman and his aversion to whiffs isn’t precisely the prototype you search for when making an attempt to create an ideal reliever. One of many keys for him, as is usually the case, got here from tapping into unseen velocity when pitching shorter reduction outings; what as soon as was a 93-mph sinker now sat 96 and touched 99.
The rate carried over into 2021, and with it, newfound run suppression, as he turned a dominant nearer for the stunning Mariners. By the point the commerce deadline rolled round, Graveman had a 0.82 ERA, and whereas his peripherals (a 2.90 FIP and three.13 xFIP) could have recommended he was nearer to a great reliever than an elite one, it was nonetheless clear that the transfer to the bullpen had turned his profession round. The Astros acquired him on the deadline to bolster their bullpen for the playoffs, and whereas nonetheless good, he regressed nearer to what his peripherals had mentioned all alongside, placing up a 3.13 ERA the remainder of the way in which.
There may be extra to Graveman’s ascension than merely including velocity. For those who’re a reader of David Laurila’s Sunday Notes, then chances are you’ll already know in regards to the growth of his slider. Previous to final season, Graveman’s breaking ball was sluggish and lackluster, however with teaching and instruction from Seattle, he began throwing it like a fastball. That helps clarify why the breaker he threw 17.9% of the time this yr got here in about seven mph more durable than those he threw in Oakland.
This new pitch is one thing Graveman can persistently get whiffs with. He had a 20.1% SwStr% on the pitch this yr, making it even higher than a league-average slider at delivering whiffs (16.2%). That was the primary season he had a SwStr% over 7.6%, and he ran all of it the way in which as much as 10.7%. He definitely has some traits of an elite reliever now that he carries a excessive 90s fastball and a whiff-inducing slider; mixed together with his capacity to get grounders, he turns into an interesting addition to this White Sox bullpen.
Talking of that bullpen: For those who’re holding observe at house, Chicago now has three guys that spent giant chunks of the 2021 season as a more in-depth, accumulating a mixed 72 saves: Graveman; Liam Hendriks, who was signed final offseason to a four-year deal and completed eighth within the AL Cy Younger voting; and Craig Kimbrel, who was acquired on the deadline after having a bounce-back first half because the Cubs’ nearer. For now, Graveman would doubtless be establishing these two, in addition to the left-handed Aaron Bummer, in what at the moment appears to be a really formidable ‘pen.
White Sox Projected Bullpen (2021 Stats)
Final season, Chicago’s bullpen had the most effective Okay-BB% in baseball, in addition to the fourth greatest FIP, however completed twelfth in ERA; there have been clearly a number of gifted arms even when the run-suppression didn’t fairly stack up. Including Graveman to that bullpen could look like overkill, however the White Sox haven’t been shy about their curiosity in dealing Kimbrel after choosing up his $16 million possibility for the 2022 season. His acquisition didn’t come low-cost for the Sox, who traded away Nick Madrigal and reliever Codi Heuer, and Kimbrel faltered in his new house, placing up a 5.09 ERA and 4.56 FIP. If they will pull off a commerce wherein the opposite group takes on all $16 million owed to him, they may theoretically substitute his manufacturing with Graveman’s at half the associated fee. Of different observe is the function that Michael Kopech will play in 2022. After sitting out the 2020 season, he was used as a reliever final season to handle his workload however is anticipated to affix the rotation rather than departed free agent Carlos Rodón, creating one other potential bullpen gap to fill.
No matter what occurs with Kimbrel, or how Kopech is used, Graveman gives a novel search for a bullpen flush with guys pumping high-90s four-seamers.
White Sox Projected Bullpen (Traits)
Launch Top (Ft.)
Breaking Ball Sort
Breaking Ball Fee
No bullpen threw extra four-seam fastballs than the White Sox final yr, at over 50%, and so they additionally had the eighth-lowest sinker utilization charge. That led to a bullpen that was second in strikeouts however center of the pack in grounders. Graveman ought to step in properly as a right-handed complement to Bummer, as each can come into the late innings and get grounders whereas throwing strikes.
The White Sox don’t look like a group that’s accomplished making strikes, at the same time as their projected payroll is now $35 million greater than final yr’s. They’ve a powerful want for a second baseman, and who is aware of what is going to occur with a possible Kimbrel commerce. It’s attainable that by the point the postseason is over, the acquisition of Graveman can be lengthy overshadowed, however the essential innings he’ll be throwing over the subsequent few seasons ought to proceed to convey him again into the highlight.