A big piece of the puzzle for the Oakland Athletics exceeding the expectations of finishing in the basement of the American League West will be the performance of Kendall Graveman. The 26 year old right-hander got off to the right kind of start in the Athletics opener Monday against in division rivals Anaheim.
Going six strong innings with seven strikeouts turned heads against the Angels who possess several players that can do damage with the bat. The lone blemish was a home run given up to Mike Trout. The seven strikeouts were something not many could have expected as Graveman only had totaled 5.23K’s/9 innings last season, in his first full season.
Until the expected return of Sonny Gray, Graveman will be opposing team’s top arms, and if his first go-around was any indication, he should be able to allow the A’s to compete, and potentially more. If Graveman can continue to build off the opener, he could be the first A’s pitcher since Gray in 2015 to be selected to the midsummer classic in Miami.
What could the reason for a potential emergence of Graveman?
Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs noticed an uptick on the velocity of Graveman’s two primary pitches:
"“Graveman’s arm strength has consistently increased since he got to the majors, and now he looks like a legitimate power pitcher. A power pitcher who leans heavily on his sinker and cutter. Those two pitches accounted for nearly everything Graveman just threw, and he’s had a similarly simple mix for some time now. As the sinker goes, so goes Graveman.”More from Call to the PenPhiladelphia Phillies, ready for a stretch run, bomb St. Louis CardinalsPhiladelphia Phillies: The 4 players on the franchise’s Mount RushmoreBoston Red Sox fans should be upset over Mookie Betts’ commentAnalyzing the Boston Red Sox trade for Dave Henderson and Spike Owen2023 MLB postseason likely to have a strange look without Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals"
The Mississippi State Bulldog came to Oakland in the deal with the Blue Jays which sent Josh Donaldson to Toronto. Since that time Brett Lawrie and Sean Nolin who came with to Oakland have moved on, and top organizational prospect Franklin Barreto is set to begin the season with Triple A Nashville. Steady contributions from Graveman will go along way in absolving Billy Beane from the perception that enough wasn’t returned for Donaldson.
The Athletics are currently projected by Fangraphs to win 78 games, which would leave them with the fourth worst record in the American League. But, if any team is accustomed to overcoming projections by pundits and so-called experts it is the A’s. As Jason Burke pointed out, most believed that Gray and Sean Manaea were going to be the one-two starting punch. Graveman elevating his play could be perfect for Oakland as they may be moving Sonny Gray at some point in 2017.
While the ideas of a playoff push after one game cannot be entertained, it is an exciting development if the maturation of Kendall Graveman is happening this season.