Maybe the Josh Donaldson trade wasn’t such a bad idea.
The Oakland Athletics got current third baseman Brett Lawrie out of the deal, and Lawrie has not been bad this season. He’s no Donaldson, but he is batting .288/.326/.416, with six home runs. In addition to Lawrie, the centerpiece of the deal, the A’s also got shortstop Franklin Barreto and lefty Sean Nolin.
But starting pitcher Kendall Graveman might be the most important part of that trade. After making five relief appearances for the Blue Jays last season, Graveman is getting his first real shot at the major leagues this year. He has a 4.02 ERA through ten starts this season, including a complete game. He’s also struck out 37 hitters in 56 innings, for a 3-4 record, and over half of his outings have been quality starts.
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But this season is far from what Graveman is capable of. The 24-year-old flew through the Jays’ minor league system after being drafted in 2013, pitching ten games that year with Single-A Lansing. When he returned to Lansing the following spring, he pitched four games with an astonishingly low 0.34 ERA before it was clear that the competition was no match for his talent.
Graveman finished the 2014 season with the Blue Jays’ major league club, just over a year after he was drafted. Across all four minor league levels that he played at that season, Graveman finished with a 1.83 ERA in 27 starts, striking out 115 in 167.1 innings. His WHIP was just 1.034, and he’d allowed only two home runs all year. Those are some pretty incredible numbers for someone in their first full year of professional baseball.
While Graveman won’t rack up a large amount of strikeouts, he is capable of getting an above-average amount of groundballs, and he has recently decreased the amount of hard-hit balls allowed. That has led to his recent success, after such a rough start in April.
Graveman is very young, and it was unrealistic to expect him to jump into the rotation with no big league experience – plus very little minor experience – and not have any issues. The fact that it only took a few starts at Triple-A to get turned around shows just how much talent he has.
Graveman has never been a flashy pitcher, but he’s certainly capable of slotting in behind Sonny Gray and A.J. Griffin in the rotation. He won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2018, and he will not be a free agent until 2021, so he’s exactly the kind of young arm the Athletics need. Graveman should continue to improve as the season goes on, making the Donaldson trade look even better.