photo: Michael McGreevy (Big West Conference)
By Blake Newberry and Brian Walton
The first round of the 20-round 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft was held on Sunday evening, July 11 in Denver, Colorado. The traditional event of 40 rounds had been held over three days in conjunction with the College World Series in Omaha. However, in the second year of financial pressures on teams, ownership opted to reduce this draft to 20 rounds and move it a month later, as part of MLB’s All-Star Weekend.
By virtue of their 2020 success, the St. Louis Cardinals received the 18th overall selection in the 2021 draft. The organization’s 10 picks to be made in the second through 10th rounds will be made on Monday, starting at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. The final 10 selections will be unveiled starting at noon ET Tuesday.
Further background on the draft and its finances can be found here:
To reference the Cardinals’ new draft class on an ongoing basis, each player will have a profile located on a holding team called “DRAFT UNSIGNED PLAYERS”. This can be accessed at the bottom of the drop-down menu in the red column in the left menu called “ROSTERS/PLAYERS/MOVES” or click here.
St. Louis’ selections – 2021 draft day 1
First round, 18th overall
Michael McGreevey, RHP, Cal Santa Barbara
The pool amount for this pick is $3,481,300.
Randy Flores comments
Cardinals director of scouting Randy Flores spoke with the media shortly after the selection was made Sunday evening. As one would expect, he praised the organization’s newest pick.
“He has a great feel for and command of the zone,” Flores said. “He took ownership of his development during the pandemic, increasing velocity and getting stronger.”
“He reeks of athleticism and being a starter. He threw over 100 innings coming off the pandemic and almost has a phobia of walking batters. He can control his slider and curveball and is developing his changeup.”
Flores did not want to make a comparison to another pitcher at this time but noted that McGreevy thinks he “has another jump in his physicality” ahead that will allow him to get stronger and develop his pitches further, especially his changeup.
The scouting director believes McGreevy “has the ingredients to pitch in a (major league) rotation” and has the command and confidence for more improvements ahead in the future. He praised the pitcher’s athleticism and said “touching 96-97 (mph) is in there and his frame supports that horsepower.”
Flores would not comment on what level of the system McGreevy would begin his career but made a general statement that the organization will “assess the physical readiness of each player” and will “develop a customized approach based on game readiness.”
McGreevy is only the second college pitcher selected by the Cardinals with their first pick since 2015, following University of Kentucky left-hander Zack Thompson in 2019. It is a return to the formula the organization followed in 2012 (Michael Wacha), 2013 (Marco Gonzales) and 2014 (Luke Weaver).
His results this spring were impressive. His 0.97 walks-per-nine innings ratio and 10.45 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2021 both ranked second among all qualified Division I pitchers . McGreevy led the Big West Conference with his 101 2/3 innings pitched in 2021, again earning First Team All-Big West honors and was named a semifinalist for National Pitcher of the Year Award by the College Baseball Foundation.
The pitcher’s opening remarks via Zoom on Sunday evening were simple and straightforward. “I’m happy to be a Cardinal. That is all I have to say.”
McGreevy went on to answer questions.
“Walking is not competing,” he proclaimed. McGreevy noted it is better to give up a hit than a walk.
He said he opened 2021 at 220 pounds but fell to 215 during his collegiate season and believes 230 is attainable in the future.
Cardinals area scout Mike Garciaparra scouted him but he did not know the Cardinals would be taking him until two picks prior to no. 18 overall. He noted he was a shortstop his whole life but agrees the move to full-time pitching is the right move for him.
He was a Padres fan growing up and did not know a lot about the Cardinals, but cited Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha’s repertoire (fastball, changeup and curve). McGreevy also referenced current Double-A Springfield pitcher and his high school teammate Andre Pallante, hoping he could experience a similar rise in the organization and Cardinals minor league outfielder Tommy Jew, a college teammate.
McGreevy closed by saying, “Draft day lived up to everything I thought it would be.”
McGreevy is a highly productive college right-hander with 70-grade control, according to Baseball America, and has the potential to move quickly through the organization. This fills a need for the St Louis Cardinals organization as not only is the pitching struggling throughout the organization, but there have been problems with strike throwing.
The last college pitcher that the Cardinals selected in the first round was Zack Thompson in 2019, and he has already reached Triple-A, although he is struggling there.
In high school, McGreevy was also a very good shortstop. However, once he reached campus at UCSB he was quickly turned into a full-time pitcher.
McGreevy operated out of the bullpen in his first collegiate season, making 29 appearances and posting a 5-1 record with six saves. The 20-year-old moved into the rotation in his sophomore season, but only made four starts due to COVID cancelling the rest of the season. In his final year at UCSB, McGreevy started 16 games and threw 101 2/3 innings. He averaged 6 1/3 innings per start while walking just 11 batters all year and fanning 115.
McGreevy has shown impressive improvement on a year-to-year basis. The righty increased his strikeout rate every year, from 7.9 K/9 as a freshman to 10.2 K/9 as a junior. Despite the uptick in strikeouts, McGreevy did not lose his strong control and actually improved from 1.9 BB/9 as a freshman to 1.0 BB/9 as a junior. He also limits home runs, allowing just 10 in his 189 2/3 career innings.
McGreevy throws a fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup which all grade out as average or better. There is split opinion on which secondary pitch is McGreevy’s best. Baseball America grades his curveball as his best pitch, but others believe his slider will be his go-to offering outside of his fastball.
The right-hander’s fastball sat around 93 this season but topped out at 96. His fastball is a two-seamer with good sink and good arm side run. As a result, this is a pitch that will likely play better at the bottom of the zone, as opposed to the top of the zone. Locating his fastball here should give him the ability to generate plenty of groundballs.
McGreevy’s curveball has plenty of 12-to-6 movement, but he can be inconsistent with the pitch. When he snaps off the pitch well, the 20-year-old can get sharp drop on his curveball. However, he sometimes lets his curveball float a little bit instead of break sharply and this needs to be refined or else it will be prone to hard contact against professional hitters.
The right-hander’s slider gets plenty of horizontal and vertical movement and currently appears to be the sharper of the two breaking offerings. McGreevy throws his slider in the mid-80s and his curveball in the lower 80s.
McGreevy’s changeup lags a touch behind his other breaking pitches, although it already gets good sink and run. In an interview in May with Baseball Prospects Journal’s Dan Zielinski III. McGreevy said that getting his changeup to an elite level is something that he wants to work on in the offseason.
Also in that interview, McGreevy was quoted as saying “I just hate walks with a passion”. This approach has led McGreevy to being an elite strike thrower in the college ranks. It has also led to him allowing hits as he allowed 9.6 hits per nine innings in his junior season. His WHIP (1.18) was still solid due to his excellent control, but he will need to learn how to effectively manage contact if he keeps his pitching style.
The right-hander likes to pitch with a quick tempo, and he takes very little time between pitches. Such an approach can help him find a rhythm and make the hitter uncomfortable.
McGreevy is the kind of productive college pitcher with pitchability that the Cardinals tend to develop well. His aversion to walks should fit well in a system that allows too many walks, and his ability to throw four pitches for strikes and pitch deep into games should give him the ability to develop as a starter.
It is possible that McGreevy could increase his velocity as he gains strength in his 6’4”, 215-pound frame. This could allow him to raise his ceiling which, as of now, appears to be that of a mid-rotation starter.
As in recent seasons, TCN staff writer Blake Newberry is writing the player capsules with Brian Walton filling in the rest.
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