Photo: Gordon Graceffo (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
It is time to select The Cardinal Nation’s first Pitcher of the Month for the 2022 season. This article covers play during April across the four full-season affiliates. The two short-season rookie level clubs will not be considered since they have not yet begun play.
As a reminder, this is NOT the “Pitcher of the Month Among Top Prospects”. Every player in the system has an equal chance, with only their performance during the month used to differentiate the best of the best. Age and level, which are key prospect considerations, are not factors here.
To qualify, a pitcher must have thrown at least 10 innings during April. To make the list of finalists, an ERA below 3.00 was required. The group broke out into five with ERAs between 1.00 and 1.99 and six between 2.00 and 2.99.
Of the 12 finalists, seven are starters and five are relievers, covering three levels of the minor leagues, with only Springfield not having a representative. Notably, 3/5 of the Peoria rotation made the group of finalists while Single-A Palm Beach has the most representatives with five.
Three finalists posted an April ERA under 1.00, and it’s not a surprise that the Pitcher of the Month came from that group.
In the following table, finalist names are listed in ascending ERA order. Leaders are bolded.
|Jose Moreno||Palm Beach||0||1||1.38||4||3||0||0||13.0||13||5||2||0||10||12|
|Andre Granillo||Palm Beach||3||0||1.80||6||0||1||1||10||4||2||2||2||6||19|
|Inohan Paniagua||Palm Beach||0||1||2.14||4||4||0||0||21.0||13||10||5||0||5||28|
|Edgar Manzo||Palm Beach||0||0||2.31||6||0||0||0||11.2||10||3||3||1||5||8|
|Zane Mills||Palm Beach||1||1||2.96||4||4||0||0||24.1||22||9||8||2||3||16|
From this table, it’s clear that the race between Michael McGreevy and Gordon Graceffo was a tight one. They both allowed only two earned runs and threw over 20 innings, though McGreevy tossed two more than Graceffo, hence the slight ERA difference. The two draftmates also tied for the fewest walks allowed this month among finalists.
Graceffo collected five more strikeouts than his teammate in fewer innings and that helped him gain an edge despite having an ERA just a few notches higher.
Jake Walsh has been a force out of the Memphis bullpen, allowing just one earned run in eight appearances and going a perfect 5-for-5 in save opportunities.
Jose Moreno had a good month in terms of ERA, but he allowed three unearned runs and walked nearly as many hitters as he struck out. In this analysis, he was worth mentioning but he was toward the bottom of the finalists.
Inohan Paniagua is also someone whose success may be a little deceiving. His 2.14 ERA doesn’t factor in five unearned runs, though he did have an impressive 28 strikeouts compared to just five walks.
Both Paniagua and Moreno are pitching in Single-A, where the defense can be inconsistent, so it’s not a huge surprise to see a larger discrepancy between ERA and RA/9 (like ERA but factors in unearned runs).
In the following table, finalist names are listed in ascending batting average against (Avg.) order. Leaders are bolded.
|Andre Granillo||Palm Beach||.121||0||1.00||3.6||1.8||5.4||17.1||3.2|
|Inohan Paniagua||Palm Beach||.171||4||0.86||5.6||0.0||2.1||12.0||5.6|
|Edgar Manzo||Palm Beach||.238||0||1.29||7.7||0.8||3.9||6.2||1.6|
|Zane Mills||Palm Beach||.244||2||1.03||8.1||0.7||1.1||5.9||5.3|
|Jose Moreno||Palm Beach||.260||1||1.77||9.0||0.0||6.9||8.3||1.2|
It is this table which really shows Graceffo’s advantages over McGreevy. McGreevy edged him slightly on walks allowed per nine innings, but Graceffo took the crown in WHIP and K/BB ratio among all finalists. This explains why his FIP (1.54) was much better than McGreevy’s (2.13) even though his ERA was a touch higher. Graceffo was also stingier in allowing hits than McGreevy.
Speaking of being stingy against hits, Palm Beach reliever Andre Granillo was nearly unhittable this month, leading all finalists with 3.6 hits per nine and a .121 batting average against. He also was the leader in K9 by a wide margin as the next closest pitcher to his 17.1 mark was Graceffo (12.5), who was short by nearly five strikeouts per nine innings.
Both Graceffo and McGreevy had eye-popping K/BB ratios, but Graceffo’s 30-to-1 ratio this month had the edge as he showed great stuff to go along with strong control.
Three of the top five pitchers in terms of BAA were Peoria starters as Dionys Rodriguez joined the group by allowing a batting average below .170. This is a great sign for the Cardinals High-A affiliate as the Peoria rotation has gotten off to a hot start.
On the other end of the table, Packy Naughton was promoted to St. Louis despite allowing Triple-A hitters to bat .300 against him. Connor Thomas’ BAA of .283 was not much better, but it’s not surprising to see a pair of pitch-to-contact arms at the bottom of the table.
TCN’s Pitcher of the Month – Gordon Graceffo
Gordon Graceffo was the Cardinals’ 5th Round pick in the 2021 MLB draft. He began his professional career with 26 innings in Single-A Palm Beach last year and pitched well enough to be named TCN’s System-wide Rookie Pitcher of the Year after posting a 1.73 ERA and 2.72 FIP.
In college, Graceffo dominated Big East competition in Villanova’s rotation. He was a three-year starter and compiled a 1.51 ERA in his final two years, though he made only 15 starts in that time.
Following his impressive debut, TCN ranked him as the 17th best prospect in the system to open 2022 and bumped up three spots in the April re-ranking. If he continues to pitch like this, he won’t peak there.
The 22-year-old right-hander has always had great command, as evidenced by his low walk rates in college and to open this season, but he added plenty of velocity since being drafted. Scouts clocked him around 93 mph in his final year of college, but in Spring Training this year, Graceffo touched 100. An uptick in stuff to go with excellent command makes Graceffo an intriguing prospect who could be a candidate to rise quickly.
For now, though, he’ll simply focus on continuing to dominate High-A competition and earn a promotion to Double-A. He appears well on track to do that.
Graceffo fully earned the honor of being TCN’s Pitcher of the Month and he deserves recognition for his excellent performances.
I’ll be back tomorrow to name our Player of the Month. The St. Louis Cardinals should follow soon with their picks for the best pitcher and the best hitter in April.
Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation
The Cardinal Nation 2022 Prospect Guide is back for its fifth year. It includes 276 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos. Order your PDF or printed book copy today!
Not yet a member?
Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.
Special limited time bundle
Save 25% on your first year’s subscription to The Cardinal Nation – just $59.95 when you also purchase The Cardinal Nation’s 2022 Cardinals Prospect Guide in printed book form.
This is our best-ever subscription price! You receive $120.00 of value for $99.90! This offer ends when the supply of Prospect Guides is exhausted – so don’t wait!
Follow Blake Newberry on Twitter @bt_newberry.
© 2022 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.