The Atlanta Braves have high hopes for J.R. Graham‘s future with the organization. The team refused to involve the 23-year old in the trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks to acquire All-Star outfielder Justin Upton. This spring did nothing to derail those high hopes and offered a glimpse to fans just how bright his future could be.
Spring training is over for the right-hander as he was assigned back to the minors following Saturday’s game, which is an indication of a full rotation at the MLB level and not an indictment on a poor spring for Graham. In five games, Graham showcased his potential by allowing zero runs and scattering six hits over nine innings. He added five strikeouts to three walks, and finished the spring with a 1.00 WHIP and .200 opponent batting average.
It all starts with the fastball for Graham. He consistently hits mid-to-upper 90s, and gets sinking movement to get batters to ground the pitch harmlessly into the ground. As a groundball pitcher, Graham works quickly, which allows his defense to be on their toes. He also features a plus changeup and slider — both of which are improving — to complement the sinking fastball.
The hard-thrower could be an option as a relief pithcer, but general manager Frank Wren seems set on giving him every opportunity to be a starter. Standing 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, he has proven to be athletic and durable enough to be a starter at this point in his career.
Graham needs more starts at the minor league level before joining the team in Atlanta. He has made just nine starts at the Double-A level, and will likely see time there and Triple-A Gwinnett in 2013. However, if he picks up where he left off this spring, he will not be in the minors for very long. I have a feeling he will make an impact on the team in 2013 at some point, and look for him to be a mainstay on the team in 2014.