With spring training in full swing and Opening Day just around the corner, I’ll be taking a look at prospects (not named Jordan Walker) who could make an impact in 2023.
That much was clear even before he was reassigned to minor league camp at spring training. He isn’t going to crack our list of 20 Most Important Cardinals, either.
In fact, it was tempting to go with another pitcher for this third entry in our Prospect Watch series. Gordon Graceffo is the top prospect, the pitcher other teams are calling about, and the arm that the Cardinals hope to slot into their rotation, and soon. Tink Hence is the boldfaced name with the sizzling camp, part of the team-altering 2020 draft. Heck, even Matthew Liberatore or Jake Woodford (#FreeJakeWoodford) would have been compelling names to write about.
But make no mistake, McGreevy has the chance to impact the Cardinals this year and has a chance to cement his place on the team for years to come.
McGreevy, the Cardinals’ first-round pick in 2021 (18th overall), has sped through the minor league system. Last year, his first full season with the team, saw him start in Peoria, where he struck out 41 in 45.1 innings, with a 2.58 ERA. A quick promotion to Class AA followed, where McGreevy made 20 starts for the Springfield Cardinals. He had a 4.64 ERA but struck out 76 in 99 innings. His stuff plays and an impressive spring – including touching 96 during live BP – has allowed Cardinals’ brass to start thinking about how he might fit into future plans.
The team still has four openings in their rotation after this year. Extensions and other rising prospects may cut down on opportunities but McGreevy can throw his name in the hat for that role with a strong year in 2023.
Of course, he can also impact the Cardinals this year. Would an impressive stint in the minors catapult him to the top of the line for a mid-year call-up to the bullpen? His impressive spring and his fast rise through the system certainly leave that option on the table.
Others seem to think his floor is, at worst, an effective weapon out of the pen. Keith Law at The Athletic, who ranked McGreevy as the Cardinals’ ninth-best prospect, thinks McGreevy could also have back-end starter potential:
“McGreevy was their first-round pick in 2021 and was in Double A before midseason, where he started to run into trouble with hard contact and home runs because his stuff is mostly just average. He’s a command guy who throws a lot of strikes and has an excellent feel for his above-average slider, using it for chases and even some called strikes, making up for the fastball, which is mostly 91-94. His stuff just got hit hard, and while a little of that is location, it’s more about the quality of his pitches, and he might have to find more velocity or improve the breaking stuff to be a back-end starter.”
MLB.com had similar notes, ranking McGreevy as the team’s eighth-best prospect:
"The former Gaucho’s best skill remains his ability to fill up the zone, but in the Texas League, he learned what upper-level hitters can do to pitchers relying solely on polish. His low-90s sinking fastball lacked the velocity to elicit whiffs, meaning McGreevy had to rely on ground balls to get outs. Those did come in droves (his 49.8 percent GB rate was third-best among Cards full-season qualifiers), but the better news is he’s starting to show more 95-96 mph heaters in the early days of 2023 Spring Training.....[m]uch will come down to McGreevy’s velocity in year two. If he can squeeze out an extra half or even full grade on his sinker, then the reality of him becoming a strike-throwing No. 4 starter comes into clearer view. If that doesn’t hold, he might have to settle as a grounder-heavy bulk pitcher out of the bullpen.”
Well, this spring showed that McGreevy found the velocity. Is a spot in the bullpen in 2023, followed by a starter’s turn in 2024 on the horizon? It’ll be fun to find out.