Upon being selected with the 151st pick in the fifth round of the 2021 MLB draft by the St. Louis Cardinals and subsequently signing with the team, Gordon Graceffo officially ended his storied Villanova baseball career and began the next part of what he hopes to be a storied professional baseball career. Following his rookie season in the Cardinals’ organization, it is safe to say that Graceffo is on the right path, as he earned The Cardinal Nation’s Minors Rookie Pitcher of the Year.
Graceffo, who had established himself as one of the best pitchers in Villanova history, went 7-2 with a 1.54 ERA, 0.963 WHIP and 9.4 K/9 in 11 starts for the Wildcats over the course of their 2021 season. Together with hitters such as Chris Rotondo, Ryan Toohers and Nick Lorusso and other pitchers including Tyler Arella and Jimmy Kingsbury, Graceffo led Villanova baseball to its best season since 2012 (excluding the 2020 pandemic-shortened season). He said that being a part of the Villanova baseball program “helped me a lot” in preparation for a professional career. Manager Kevin Mulvey, who pitched professionally for the New York Mets, Minnesota Twins and Arizona Diamondbacks, provided plenty of valuable guidance for what to expect in the pros. Additionally, Graceffo stated that “the competition in the Big East and out of conference competition helped prepare me for the competition in the pros.”
Clearly, Villanova prepared Graceffo well for the big leagues. Pitching for the High-A Affiliate of the Cardinals, the Palm Beach Cardinals, and coming out of the bullpen, Graceffo finished his rookie season with a 1.73 ERA and 37 strikeouts over 26 innings. In Major League Baseball, upon being drafted, one does not immediately go to “the big leagues” as in the NBA or NFL. Instead, players go through the “farm system,” which consists of various levels up to AAA. Since being drafted and entering the Cardinals’ farm system, Graceffo has been working on getting more consistent with his pitches and putting more weight on. The work has definitely been paying off.
Although not used to pitching in a relief role, Graceffo excelled in it, although he is looking forward to returning to being a starting pitcher next season. He was put into a relief role by the Cardinals because of the amount of innings he had pitched for Villanova and in the summer league, but the organization wants to put him back into the starter role and envision him being a starting pitcher long-term.
As for next season, Graceffo is looking forward to continuing his professional baseball journey. The ultimate goal for next season is to be successful enough at the High-A level to end the year at the AA level with the Springfield Cardinals. For now, he is well on his way towards becoming an impactful pitcher in the majors.