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Minor league report: Cardinals prospect Gordon Graceffo spins four hitless innings, K’s six

Making his second start at the Class AAA level, Cardinals pitching prospect Gordon Graceffo spun four hitless innings and struck out six batters in Memphis’ road series opener against Atlanta’s Class AAA affiliate, Gwinnett, on Tuesday.

Graceffo escaped trouble in the second inning after he loaded the bases with one out after walking two batters and hitting another. The former fifth-round Cardinals’ pick in the 2021 MLB draft avoided damage with back-to-back swinging strikeouts to end the inning — the first via a slider and the second on a 96 mph fastball.

The outing comes after Graceffo, 23, surrendered three runs on seven hits across four innings during his Class AAA debut on April 6. He had just one strikeout in that start.

Along with Graceffo’s hitless start, these are some of Tuesday’s notable minor league performances around the Cardinals affiliates:

Right-handed pitcher Gordon Graceffo, Class AAA Memphis Graceffo’s fastball sat at 94 mph and topped at 97.5 mph in his 76-pitch outing, according to statcast. The righty, who the Post-Dispatch ranked as the top Cardinals’ pitching prospect entering 2023, induced 10 swings-and-misses in the start. Six of those came on his slider.

Shortstop Masyn Winn, Class AAA Memphis: Winn, the Cardinals’ top prospect following Jordan Walker’s arrival to the majors, singled twice, drove in two runs, and stole a base for the Redbirds. He shifted over to second base for Tuesday’s game with Paul DeJong playing shortstop as a part of his rehab assignment.

Winn, 21, entered Tuesday’s series opener one-for-17 in his last five games. The second of Winn’s two singles registered a 100.5 mph exit velocity, per statcast, and produced his two RBIs. Prior to Tuesday, the only run Winn had driven in was in the Class AAA season opener on March 31.

Shortstop Paul DeJong, Class AAA Memphis (rehab): Following three rehab games at the Class Low-A level, DeJong (back) went zero-for-four and struck out three times in his first appearance at the Class AAA level. With Winn shifted over to second base, DeJong played all nine innings of Tuesday’s contest at shortstop. It marked his first full game at the position since beginnings his rehab assignment. DeJong is one-for-13 with two RBIs across four games during his rehab.

Outfielder Moises Gomez, Class AAA Memphis: As he continues to search for his first home run of the year, Gomez produced a three-hit day while batting fifth for Memphis. All three of Gomez’s hits were singles to left field and two of them registered exit velocities above 100 mph, according to statcast. Gomez’s hardest-hit ball of the day had a 112.6 mph exit velocity, which also made it the hardest-hit ball in play on Tuesday between Memphis and Gwinnett.

The multi-hit game was Gomez’s second consecutive multi-hit performance and raised his average to .286 over his first 35 at-bats of 2023. Gomez — the MiLB home run leader a season ago with 39 — has connected on two extra-base hits so far with both being doubles.

Right-handed pitcher Ryan Loutos, Class AA Springfield: The Washington University-St. Louis graduate saw his first save opportunity of 2023 slip away from him as he struggled to find overall command – notably with his fastball — when he entered the ninth inning for Springfield with a one-run lead.

Loutos walked the first batter he faced on four fastballs and hit the second after getting the count full. After an Arkansas hitter laid down a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk was given to the batter behind him, Loutos gave up a single to right field that allowed the tying and game-winning run to score.

The two runs were the only two Loutos has given up in 1 1/3 innings to begin the season.

Designated hitter/outfielder L.J. Jones, Class AA Springfield: Jones collected his first double of the year on a night where he went two-for-four. Jones, a fifth-round Cardinals’ pick in the 2020 draft, doubled 33 times a season ago which was the second-most in the Cardinals’ system behind Winn and ahead of the 31 hit by both Jordan Walker and Mike Antico. The Long Beach State product is three-for-eight with three RBIs to begin the MiLB season. His first two games for Springfield were his first at the Class AA level.

Outfielder Matt Koperniak, Class AA Springfield: The three-hit night put together by Koperniak included a home run – his first of the season — two singles, and three RBIs. The former undrafted free agent’s multi-hit night makes him six-for-16 in his first four games of the year. Koperniak, 25, finished his spring five-for-12 at the plate in the Grapefruit League that included a tape-measure home runs against Washington on March 4 and a trip to the World Baseball Classic where he represented Team Great Britain.

Daniel Guerrero

@TheDanGuerrero on Twitter

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