The VEB Super Podcast Weekend continues with our featured presentation!
Minor League writer Blake Newberry and Kyle Reis, along with your intrepid host (me!), interview Caridnals’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year Gordon Graceffo!
Graceffo had a brilliant year in 2022, his first full season in the minors. He downright bullied Peoria, producing a 1.71 FIP (.99 ERA). Perhaps even more impressive was his 33.9% K rate and his 2.4% BB rate. That’s a 14.00 K/BB ratio. Incredible.
With those kinds of measurables, the Cardinals had no reason not to push him. They advanced Graceffo after just 45 innings to AA Springfield. There he faced more of a challenge. His K’s fell. His BB’s rose. So did his HR rate. In Springfield Graceffo had a 5.07 FIP and a 3.94 ERA.
In the podcast we asked Graceffo about the challenge of facing such mature hitters at such an early age. He learned as he went and his bulldog mentality on the mound helped him push through his mid-season struggles.
Graceffo talks about how encouraging his late-season success was. Over his last three starts, Graceffo didn’t allow a run. His FIP was just 1.84. His K rate was 37.9%. His walk rate was 3.4%. That’s an 11.00 K/BB ratio.
It is a small sample size but it’s still encouraging. If you look carefully at Graceffo’s game logs with Springfield, you’ll see a few brutal starts surrounded by a bunch of good outings. He started well in AA. Then hit a rocky patch once the league adjusted to him. Then he settled in as the dominant arm he was in A ball.
That’s exactly what you want to see out of a young pitching prospect.
We were able to hit on a wide variety of topics with Graceffo. If you’re not familiar with him, he does go through his pitching repertoire. He has a hard fastball which has increased in velocity since his time at Villanova. He also has a sharp slider and a changeup.
The velocity increase has been a big part of his story and we cover that, including all the other people who are involved in helping a prospect go from being discovered to getting drafted. His draft story is very interesting, as is his pre-draft workout before the scouts at Busch Stadium. (It did not go well. The Cardinals drafted him anyway.)
We also talked about Graceffo’s role with the big club. There’s been some discussion that he might find himself on the Andre Pallante track. There are similarities between the two pitchers. Pallante also experienced a sharp increase in velocity and that intrigued the Cardinals so much that they pushed him all the way up to the majors with very little time in AAA. Graceffo, with his already excellent command/control, could force his way into the roster conversation with an impressive spring.
I, personally, would prefer him to continue starting and ready himself to take a spot in the rotation next season. He has the stuff to be the best of this current crop of minor league starters. (I’m not counting Tink Hence in that, since he’s a few years behind.)
There’s lots more in the podcast, so give it a listen or a watch! As always, the interview is available through both VEB podcast and the VEB YouTube channel.
Here’s the embedded podcast:
And the YouTube video:
As always, thanks for watching and listening! Next week, I’ll return to writing, but we have a bunch of interesting podcasts lined up as Spring Training draws near. Look for minor league interviews, and we might try to catch up with a few members of the Cardinals media.