Upon learning that the Dodgers selected reliever Kyle Grana in the latter portion of MLB’s Rule 5 Draft in December, many dedicated fans of the club immediately began searching the web near and far in attempts to gain knowledge about the hard-throwing righty from Missouri, only to come up short of any significant information in the end.
Even after being named an organizational All-Star by St. Louis at the conclusion of the 2016 campaign, Grana was still flying under the radar so much that the Cardinals left him unprotected from the 40-man roster heading into the Winter Meetings, eventually allowing the Dodgers to snag another potential gem to add to their relatively slim relief corps on the farm.
Coming off his best season in 2015 for Single-A Peoria when he tossed 57-1/3 innings with a 0.78 ERA and 69 strikeouts, the 6’4″, 240 lb. Grana averaged 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings for High-A Palm Beach last season, the seventh-best rate in the Florida State League among pitchers who threw at least 50 innings. In addition, he converted six saves in seven chances, held opponents to a .203 average and notched a career-high five victories.
Having attended Lafayette High School in Wildwood, Missouri, and later pitching for the Knights of Bellarmine College in Kentucky, Grana was not selected in the 2013 draft, but signed a free agent deal with the Cardinals not long after. He cruised his way through the Appalachian and Gulf Coast Leagues later in 2013, and subsequently earned a spot on the 2014 Low-A State College squad the following season, ultimately helping the Spikes earn their eighth-ever franchise championship in the New York-Penn League.
“I finished off the final game of the championship and wound up at the bottom of the dog pile,” Grana said. “Winning a championship at the professional level is definitely an amazing feeling.”
When asked how he felt initially about becoming a member of the Dodgers organization, the 25-year-old expressed his excitement, yet instantly recognized the amount of hard work ahead in order to succeed within one of baseball’s most celebrated franchises.
“It was a surreal moment. I was actually traveling on a plane while the draft was going on, so when we finally landed I turned my phone on and it would not stop vibrating from notifications and texts from friends and family,” he explained.
“My only goal for the upcoming season is to keep developing as a pitcher. I want to advance through the organization, and have success at whichever level I’m placed.”
As far as his pitching repertoire goes, Grana primarily utilizes a fastball and a curve, but continues to develop other secondary offerings. He says that he gets the most satisfaction from being a closer, but is willing to throw in whatever situation his club needs him the most.
“I throw a fastball and a curve, mainly. This offseason I have been focusing on developing a slider/cutter. My fastball is usually between 90-93 MPH, and it can run up to 94-95 some days. I have often been told my fastball looks like it rises, because of its high spin rate,” Grana said. “I have mostly been used as a back-end reliever throughout my career — I enjoy the adrenaline rush and pressure that comes with it. Regardless of the situation, though, I truly appreciate the competition.”
While growing up, Grana said his favorite player was legendary righty reliever Jason Isringhausen, the former All-Star who notched a franchise-leading 217 saves for the Red Birds from 2002-2008. Grana also stated that his dad was among his most influential presences during his playing days as a youngster.
“My dad coached me until I was 14 or so — he was a very no-nonsense type of coach,” Grana reflected. “And I think having that kind of structure at a young age really prepared not only me but all of the kids he coached to work for everything they want, and to not just expect it.”
As with many players on the farm at this time of the year, Grana doesn’t know for which affiliate he’ll begin his 2017 campaign, but he’s certainly prepared to head into spring camp and perform to the best of his ability. Based on the scarcity of hard-throwing relievers throughout the farm, there’s a good chance he could begin the season at Double-A Tulsa, yet if he performs well enough at spring training in March, a spot on Triple-A Oklahoma City‘s roster isn’t totally out of the question.