If you’ve read anything this offseason about the Atlanta Braves prospects, you’ve probably heard the name J.R. Graham. He’s been listed as the 2013 Baseball America #2 prospect in the Braves organization. Coming off his first full season as a pro, Graham put up the numbers to excel him past all prospects except Julio Teheran. He is entering his 23-years-old season, not have pitched above AA but Atlanta’s GM Frank Wren believes Graham is an essential part to the organizations future.
Johnathan Ryan Graham attended the University of Santa Clara where during his freshman and sophomore seasons he was a Broncos two-way player. He was playing the outfield and third base as well as coming out of the bullpen and attended the closer position. It wasn’t till his junior year when he got his first start on the mound but getting a late break into the rotation, he only started five games. Though during that same year, he appeared 23 times on the mound having 45 strikeouts while only 9 walks. At seasons end, he ranked fourth nationally averaging just 0.68 walks per nine innings. When the 2011 MLB draft rolled in, the Atlanta Braves made Graham their fourth round draft pick (146th overall).
After being drafted, he joined the Braves Rookie ball team in Danville. Even though Graham didn’t have much experience in college as a starter, the Braves felt he has a future being on the mound in the opening innings. He started eight games in Danville only giving up 11 runs with 52 strikeouts and only 13 walks. He had a record of 5-2 and ERA of 1.72.
In 2012, he was promoted to High A ball where he started 17 games going 9-1 with a 2.63 ERA and 1.023 WHIP. He kept up with high strikeout and low walk statistics with 68 K’s and only 17 walks. Towards the end of the year he was starting in Mississippi with the AA club. In only nine starts there, he had 42 K’s, three wins, a 3.18 ERA and 17 base on balls. With a combined 148 innings in 2012, he gave up a mere eight home runs.
Being invited to spring training this year, Graham can hopefully display a little of what many believe is a top of the rotation guy. He contains a four-pitch arsenal with a four seam fastball that sits at 96-98 mph throughout the game, a two seam fastball, a tremendous breaking ball and a changeup that is improving.
When I saw Graham in his only appearance yet this spring training, he looked a little nervous on the mound. He was rushing his delivery and leaving the ball up in the zone causing him to do his unusual, walk two hitters in one inning. He got out of the jam without giving up a run but hopefully during his next visit to the mound, he will settle in and record some k’s.
Below is a video I took during the Yankees vs. Braves spring training game on Saturday.