Three names for Cardinals Chief of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak come to mind when he talked about the prospects that could come into the fold as the 2023 season gets underway.
“When you look at that potential group,” Mozeliak said during the Cardinals’ winter warmup last weekend. “There are some young players out there who are starting to put themselves on the major league radar when you think about your guy like Jordan Walker and what his influence is or (Gordon) Grisfo, (Michael) McGreevy to name a few.”
Walker, Grisfo, and McGreevy, along with 19 other minor Cardinals, received non-roster invitations to spring training and could see additional opportunities with some Cardinals leaving camp to play in the World Series of Baseball Classic.
With spring training coming up, here’s a look at the aforementioned Mozeliak trio during the winter warm-up last weekend.
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Outfielder/third baseman Jordan Walker
acquired: Drafted 2020 (First Round) by Decatur (Georgia) HS
In 2022: .306 average, .898 OPS, 19 homers, 31 doubles, 68 RBIs, 22 stolen bases (Class AA)
At 19 years old to start the season, Walker was the youngest player in the Texas League and one of two teenagers on the Double-A list. Walker finished the year with the second most hits in the Texas League while tied for third in doubles and was fifth in OPS. The Georgia native was the only Cardinals minor leaguer to reach 100 home runs in a season, a record for the most home runs by a Springfield Cardinals player since 1998.
Walker switched from third base to the outfield in August as a way for the Cardinals to find his future spot in the field. He continued his pitch learning and offensive success in the Arizona Fall League. There, Walker hit a . 286 average, 0.925 OPS, and five home runs in 21 games.
Walker will come to camp with a chance to crack the Opening Day roster.
“In the case of Jordan Walker, he’s obviously a dynamic player,” Mozeliak said Saturday to fans inside Village Ball Park. “I think the most important thing for him is just playing the game, just getting experience. If we’re patient with that, he’s going to take advantage of it. I think we’re all going to take advantage of it. He has a chance to be a household name very soon and make his fingerprints on the St. Louis Cardinals quickly.” .
Right-handed pitcher Michael McGreevy
acquired: 2021 Draft (First Round), UC Santa Barbara
In 2022: 9-5, 3.99 ERA, 28 starts, 144 1/3 innings pitched, 117 strikeouts, 1.25 whip (High Class A/Class AA)
McGreevy, a San Clemente, California native and former high school teammate of Andre Pallant, started the year as the ace of the Peoria rotation. The former first rounder went 3-1 and had a 2.58 ERA in 45 1/3 innings pitched in eight starts at Class High-A. His ERA swelled to 4.64 in 99 innings pitched (20 starts) at Class AA as he had to adjust to a full season and more advanced hitters.
As a catcher, McGreevy is tied with Graceffo for the lowest walk average (5.1%) among Cardinals minor league pitchers who have thrown 130 or more innings pitched and had the seventh-highest career average in MiLB by the same playoffs, according to FanGraphs. This is what piqued the interest of the Cardinals.
“The one thing you have to love about McGreevy is that he’s a strikebreaker,” said Mozeliak. “And when you have a team that’s built on defense, it’s usually a good marriage. Does he still have to develop and work on it? When you think about his breaking ball, when you think about him being able to find a few more miles per hour or Philo, that’s all we hope to see.” .
“But when you just look at pure performance at what he was capable of doing, I like the fact that he’s in the zone. I like the fact that he works quickly. I think those are all traits that tend to lead to success at higher levels.”
Right-handed pitcher, Gordon Grisfo
acquired: 2021 Draft (Fifth Round), Villanova
In 2022: 10-6, 2.97 ERA, 26 starts, 139 1/3 innings pitched, 139 strikeouts, 0.94 WHIP
Graceffo, a hard right-hander with a 100-mile-per-hour fumble fastball, began the 2022 minor league season in a spot behind McGreevy in the Peoria rotation and finished the season as the minor league player of the year. He posted a 0.99 ERA over 45 2/3 innings pitched with 56 strikeouts and four walks in his first eight innings with Peoria. The New Jersey native moved up to Class AA in May with McGreevy seeing a decline in his strike rate and speed, the latter due to the full workload he was assigned.
Precautionary field restrictions increased Graceffo’s pace during the final stretch of the season. He finished the year with 16 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, 22 strikeouts, two walks and five hits allowed in his final three starts. Graceffo finished the Class AA season with a 3.94 ERA in 93 2/3 innings pitched.
Graceffo’s 0.94 walks and strikeouts in the second inning were second among Cardinals minor leaguers, while strikeouts were fourth most, and third best. Although Graceffo is looking to maintain the starting role, his qualities are what the Cardinals are looking for to amplify their work.
“I think one of the things we’ve heard from our coaching staff is the lack of swing and speed,” Mozliak said. “When you think back to what it’s like late last year, or maybe when you watch the postseason, the horsepower is coming from real bullpens. There’s no substitute for that.” “.