By Rob Rains
It’s no secret the Cardinals added only a few players to their roster this winter who were not already in their organization, and that will be evident again on Wednesday when the team’s pitchers and catchers go through their first official workout of the spring.
Of the 24 pitchers on the roster and 10 non-roster invitees, only four were not in the organization at the end of last season.
The team selected right-hander Wilking Rodriguez off the Yankees Triple A roster in the Rule 5 draft, signed two free agents, right-hander Guillermo Zuniga and left-hander Andrew Suarez, and obtained left-hander Anthony Misiewicz from the Royals for cash considerations.
They are four of 13 pitchers who are in the Cardinals’ major-league spring camp for the first time.
Here is information on those 13 pitchers:
Gordon Graceffo (NR) – A 22-year-old righthander, Graceffo is generally ranked as one of the top two pitching prospects in the organization. A fifth-round pick out of Villanova in 2021, he split his first full pro season between Peoria and Springfield in 2022, going 10-6 with a 2.97 ERA in 26 starts, averaging a strikeout per inning. More than likely headed to Memphis to start the season, Graceffo could get a longer look than usual this spring with so many pitchers away from camp participating in the World Baseball Classic.
Tink Hence (NR) – Standing right next to Graceffo as the top pitching prospect in the farm system is Hence, a 20-year-old righthander who was the 63rd overall pick in the 2020 draft out of high school in Pine Bluff, Ark. The Cardinals have brought him along slowly the last two years, really controlling his innings, but in 2022 at Palm Beach he allowed only 31 hits and recorded 81 strikeouts in 52 innings with a 1.38 ERA. He could begin this season at Peoria and find himself in Springfield by the middle of the summer.
Kyle Leahy (NR) – A 25-year-old righthander, Leahy has been in the system since 2018 when he was drafted in the 17th round out of Colorado Mesa. He spent almost all of last season at Springfield, making 26 starts and recording 144 strikeouts in 142 innings. He also pitched in the Arizona Fall League, where he had 21 strikeouts in 14 innings but also allowed 12 earned runs.
Ryan Loutos (NR) – One of the most interesting non-roster pitchers in camp, Loutos is in a big-league camp just two years after he was pitching at Division III Washington University, signing as a non-drafted free agent. The 23-year-old righthander shot through three levels of the system in 2022, from Peoria to Memphis. Combined he recorded 72 strikeouts in 63 innings and finished with nine saves.
Michael McGreevy (NR) – The first-round pick in the 2021 draft out of UC-Santa Barbara, the 22-year-old righthander combined with Graceffo in splitting the 2022 season between Peoria and Springfield. In his first full pro season, McGreevy was 9-5 with a 3.99 ERA. More of a pitch-to-contact type of pitcher than Graceffo, McGreevy will likely be right next to him again this season, beginning the year in the rotation at Memphis.
Anthony Misiewicz – The Cardinals acquired the left-handed reliever after he was designated for assignment by the Royals to make room on their roster for free agent Zack Greinke. Misiewicz, 28, made a combined 32 appearances for the Royals and Mariners in 2022. He also pitched for Seattle in 2020 and 2021.
Jordan Montgomery – The 30-year-old lefthander made a very positive impression after being acquired from the Yankees for Harrison Bader. Montgomery was 6-3 in 11 starts with a 3.11 ERA and begins this year in the middle of the Cardinals’ rotation. A free agent to be after the 2023 season it will be interesting to see if the Cardinals approach him this spring about signing a contract extension.
Dalton Roach (NR) – A 26-year-old righthander, Roach has been in the Cardinals’ system since 2019 when he signed as a minor-league free agent. Roach spent almost all of the 2022 season at Springfield, pitching both as a starter and reliever, compiling 96 strikeouts in 99 innings. He also is likely to begin this season at Memphis.
Wilking Rodriguez – One of the four newcomers to the organization, Rodriguez is 32 and has been out of affiliated baseball since 2015. He has two games of experience in the majors, for the Royals, in 2014. Rodriguez spent the last two seasons pitching in Mexico, and the Cardinals tried to sign him as a free agent last summer when he struck out 73 in 44 innings. As a Rule 5 selection, the native of Venezuela would have to remain on the Cardinals’ roster for the full season or else be offered back to the Yankees, who signed him at the end of last season.
JoJo Romero – The lefthanded reliever had some success in a limited role with the Cardinals in 2022 after he was acquired from the Phillies for Edmundo Sosa. Romero, 26, had 16 strikeouts in 14 innings over 15 games but also had some control issues, issuing nine walks. Romero likely will be competing for a spot in the bullpen if the Cardinals elect to keep three lefthanders. He is on Mexico’s roster for the WBC.
Chris Stratton – An effective middle reliever over an eight-year career in the majors, Stratton was acquired from the Phillies in the deadline deal that also brought Jose Quintana to St. Louis. The 32-year-old righthander will be one of several candidates competing for a spot in the back end of the Cardinals’ bullpen.
Andrew Suarez (NR) – The lefthander has major-league experience with the Giants, from 2018 to 2020, and spent the last two seasons in the Far East, pitching in South Korea in 2021 and in Japan last season. Suarez, 30, was signed to a minor-league contract but is part of a crowded group of lefthanded relievers competing for a roster spot.
Guillermo Zuniga – The other newcomer, Zuniga is a 24-year-ols native of Colombia who has been pitching in the minors since 2016. He spent the last two seasons in Double A with the Rangers before becoming a free agent. Last season he recorded 11 saves and had 66 strikeouts in 54 innings for Tulsa. He likely will be competing for a spot in either the Memphis or Springfield bullpen. He is part of the Colombia roster for the WBC.
Later this week we will run down the position players who will be going through their first spring training with the Cardinals.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Photo of Gordon Graceffo courtesy of Springfield Cardinals