Oakland A's Prospect Report: Kendall Graveman

On Friday, the Oakland A's traded star third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays for a package of four players. In this piece, we take a close look at one of the two pitchers the A's received in the deal, RHP Kendall Graveman.

Name: Kendall Graveman
Position: RHP
Height/Weight: 6’2’’, 195
Age: 23
Originally Signed: Eighth-round pick (TOR) in 2013

There are fast-rising prospects, and then there is Kendall Graveman. The right-handed pitcher took all of 16 months to go from a relatively unknown eighth-round senior pick to a major-league pitcher. During that time, Graveman moved up five levels, dominating every step of the way. His ascent culminated on Friday when he was part of the package of players the Toronto Blue Jays sent to the Oakland A’s for star third baseman Josh Donaldson.

Graveman pitched four seasons at Mississippi State, spending the last two seasons in the Bulldogs’ starting rotation. During his last two years at MSU, Graveman posted ERAs of 2.81 and 3.09. He didn’t strike-out many batters (128 in 203.1 innings), but he kept the ball on the ground and didn’t walk many (50).

"Get ready Oakland for more than a great pitcher who lives to battle, has power sink, and is great at fielding his position. Expect more." - Mississippi State Associate Head Coach Butch Thompson

Scout.com’s Gene Swindoll, who covered Graveman during his time at Mississippi State, said that the right-hander was “one of the hardest workers on the team and was a leader among the players, especially his junior and senior seasons. He developed into the ace of the pitching staff his senior season.”

The Blue Jays felt Graveman was advanced enough at the time of the draft that they assigned him to Low-A Lansing for his professional debut season. He made 10 starts for the Lugnuts in 2013, posting a 4.31 ERA and a 2.37 GO/AO in 39.2 innings.

Graveman returned to Lansing at the start of the 2014 season, but he wasn’t there for long. In four starts, Graveman allowed just 11 hits in 26.1 innings. He struck-out 25 and allowed one earned run. That earned Graveman a promotion to High-A Dunedin, and it was in Dunedin that Graveman had a possibly career-changing moment.

According to an interview Graveman gave to The National Post, Graveman said he stumbled upon an effective cut-fastball during a June 3rd start. That cutter soon became an effective part of his repertoire and helped him continue his meteoric rise towards the big legaues.

Graveman made 16 starts with Dunedin, posting a 2.23 ERA and a 64:18 K:BB in 96.2 innings. He then made one start in Double-A before landing in Triple-A Buffalo for the remainder of the minor league season. In six Triple-A starts, Graveman had a 1.88 ERA in 38.1 innings and a 2.50 GO/AO. All told, Graveman finished his first full minor league season with a 1.83 ERA in 167.1 innings. He walked just 31, allowed only two homeruns and had a 1.95 GO/AO.

The Blue Jays rewarded Graveman with a September call-up. He moved into the bullpen for the final month of the season and made five appearances for the Jays. In 4.2 innings, he allowed two runs on four hits and no walks. Graveman struck-out four and had a 9.00 GO/AO.

It is rare to see a player make such a dramatic leap forward in his first full professional season, but there is no question that Graveman was a much better pitcher in 2014 than he was in 2013. According to Swindoll, Graveman says that he is throwing harder since turning pro, thanks in part to the different baseballs they use in professional baseball as opposed to the NCAA.

“It has a lower seam than the college baseball,” Swindoll said. “That allowed him to add a couple of miles per hour to his fastball. He went from throwing in the high 80s in college to the low 90s in the minors, and he had the same sink as before.”

With a fastball that gets plenty of sink and ranges from 88-92 and can touch 95, a cutter, a slider and a change-up, Graveman has all of the tools to be an effective starting pitcher. Graveman doesn’t get a lot of swing-and-miss, but he is efficient with his pitches and can work deep into games. He rarely gives up homeruns and keeps his infielders on their toes. Graveman is extremely competitive and an excellent athlete who fields his position well.

Since becoming a starter during his junior year at Mississippi State, Graveman has been durable. At 6’2’’, 195 pounds, he should have the frame to last as a starting pitcher moving forward.

Graveman’s associate head coach at MSU, Butch Thompson, raved about Graveman’s character and competitive nature.

“I considered it a pure joy to have coached Kendall Graveman for four years at Mississippi State,” Thompson told Swindoll. “Kendall was raised by amazing parents. Gary is a coach and Sharon is a ‘rock.’ They raised one of the most competitive people I have ever encountered. Kendall competed to lead MSU to a championship (led NCAA with 19 starts in 2013), he competed to assist the need of every member of our team (captain), he competed to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering, and he competed to leave his mark on our fans, program and college community.

“Get ready Oakland for more than a great pitcher who lives to battle, has power sink, and is great at fielding his position. Expect more. Expect Kendall to make others around him better and be a tremendous representative of the Oakland A’s.”

Graveman has a chance to settle in as a number three starter in the A’s rotation for the next several years. Graveman will need a good infield defense behind him to succeed, however. He will turn 24 later this month and should have an opportunity to win a spot in the A’s rotation this spring.

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