Name: Brett Graves
Height/Weight: 6’1’’, 175
How Acquired: Drafted by the A’s in the 3rd round in the 2014 draft
The Oakland A’s made pitching a focus of their 2014 draft class, and right-hander Brett Graves was the second pitcher (third overall pick) the A’s took in that draft. The former Missouri star got his feet wet in short-season ball last year, and he will be looking to take a leap forward against full-season competition in 2015.
After a standout high school career, Graves had a decision to make in 2011. The St. Charles, MO, native had a commitment to the University of Missouri that he intended to honor. However, he also had the opportunity to turn pro and play for the organization he grew up rooting for when he was selected in the 26th round by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ultimately, Graves elected to go to Missou, and it turned out to be a wise decision, as Graves improved his draft position by 23 rounds over the three years he was at school. Graves also gained valuable experience pitching in the ultra-competitive SEC. During his junior season with the Tigers, Graves had a 3.87 ERA and a 64:18 K:BB in 93 innings. A groundball pitcher, Graves posted a 1.31 groundout-to-flyout ratio during the 2014 season.
Coming out of the draft, Scout.com ranked Graves as the 71st best draft prospect (he went 101 overall). His best pitch was his sinking fastball, which A’s scouts had seen sit in the 92-94 MPH range, according to A’s Director of Scouting Eric Kubota.
“He's a pitch-to-contact guy, gets lots of groundballs,” Kubota said shortly after the draft. “He's probably less of a pure stuff guy and more of a really good, efficient starting pitcher type who is going to get a lot of groundballs and keep the ball out of the air.”
Graves proved to be a groundball pitcher as a pro during his debut season. After a one-inning cameo with the AZL A’s, Graves was promoted to short-season Vermont. He would make eight appearances for the Lake Monsters. His ERA was 6.86 over 21 innings, but his FIP was a much better looking 3.10. He had a 53.6% groundball rate and a 2.21 groundout-to-flyout ratio. His K:BB was 3.00 (18:6), and he allowed one homerun.
Graves participated in the A’s fall Instructional League, and he drew praise from former A’s minor league pitching coordinator and current A’s bullpen coach Scott Emerson for his ability to learn and adapt to coaching. The A’s coaching staff worked with Graves on having his delivery take a more straight line to the plate and on making the arm speed on his change-up more consistent with the arm speed on his fastball and breaking balls. Graves tends to throw across his body, which can impact his command.
Graves features a hard sinker that is his best pitch, as well as a promising slider, a curveball, and a change-up that is still a work-in-progress. Graves is only 6’1’’, but he is well-built and has a powerful lower half that allows him to sit in that 92-94 MPH range. If he ever moved into the bullpen, he might see an uptick on that velocity a few MPH, although as a starter, he is likely maxed out velocity-wise. Graves looked a little fatigued towards the end of the season, but he threw nearly 140 innings between college, the minor league regular season and Instructs, so that is to be expected.
Graves turned 22 in January. He is likely to start the 2015 season Low-A Beloit and could make the jump to High-A Stockton mid-season, much the same way 2013 college draft picks Bobby Wahl and Dylan Covey did last year.