The Toronto Blue Jays minor league system is loaded with young talent. While certain prospects receive a lot of attention from fans, some very good players fly under-the-radar every season. That was just the case for left-handed pitcher Francisco Gracesqui, until a breakout 2014 season helped to spring-board the young prospect up the depth chart.
The young lefty started receiving the attention he deserved after Toronto media mogul Bob Elliott listed Gracesqui as one of the organization’s top 10 prospects in his August 21st article titled, ‘Collins the Next Boomer, Scouts Rankings’.
“Signed off a summer tryout camp in New York City in 2011 by Mike Pesce. Doesn’t have an ERA after 14 1/3 innings (seven walks, 16 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings). Plus fastball. A big leaguer? Maybe,” stated Elliott. in his article
The ranking might have been a bit high, but the rationale behind it was there, as Gracesqui was lights out in Vancouver. Sporting a flawless ERA and a 0.91 WHIP in the Northwest League, Gracesqui’s numbers stayed low due to the fact Northwest League hitters only managed a .133 batting average against him.
“Vancouver has a great atmosphere, it’s a lot of fun playing there,” stated Gracesqui. “There are always a lot of fans at every game. It’s a fun place to play.”
Earning a well-deserved promotion to the Midwest League in late July, Gracesqui continued to impress in his 21 1/3 innings of work in Lansing. The young prospect maintained a 2.11 ERA while striking out 28. Gracesqui only allowed five earned runs, while working out of the Lugnuts’ bullpen, his only runs of the season.
Gracesqui got a brief taste of what Lansing had to offer in the annual Crosstown Showdown on April 3rd. The showdown is an exhibition game against the Michigan State Spartans baseball team. The Lugnuts’ won 3-2 and Gracesqui picked up the save, an exciting moment for the young southpaw.
“The Crosstown Showdown was a break from extended spring training, so it was nice coming up here from Florida,” Gracesqui said, smiling. “It felt great getting the final out of the game. I was only on the mound for one pitch and I wish it could have been a little bit longer.”
The opportunity in the Crosstown Showdown only strengthened Gracesqui’s desire to finish his season in the Midwest League. The 23-year old pitcher explains what that meeting with the Vancouver coaching staff was like when they told him he had been promoted.
“Lansing was the place I wanted to be at the beginning of the year, so I was really excited when the coaching staff in Vancouver told me I was coming to the Midwest League,” explained Gracesqui. “That meeting was the greatest baseball moment of my life to date.”
Another area Gracesqui enjoyed about Lansing was working with former major leaguer Vince Horsman, as his pitching coach.
“Vince is a good guy. He understands you,” stated Gracesqui. “It’s great working with Vince. He really gets it. Vince is big on the mental game. They say the game is 90% mental, so Vince puts a big emphasis on that and I have learned a lot from him last season.”
Many Blue Jays fans remember Gracesqui’s older brother Frank Gracesqui who was a member of the clubs’ minor league system from 1998 to 2002 and would later go on to pitch in seven major league games with the Marlins in 2004. Francisco who is 12 years younger than his big brother explains the impact his brother’s career has had on his life.
“My brother was a big influence on my career. I always wanted to be like him growing up,” Gracesqui recalls. “Being quite a bit younger I was able to follow his professional career. I look up to him a lot.”
Prior to playing professional baseball, Gracesqui played one season at SUNY-Sullivan, becoming the school’s first player to get an opportunity in professional baseball. Humbled by that distinction, Gracesqui feels good about paving the way for future players attending the school with hopes of continuing their careers afterwards.
“I wasn’t pitching as well as I would’ve liked at SUNY-Sullivan, but my coach was really nice and helped me out a lot,” stated Gracesqui. “It was great being the first player that came out of SUNY-Sullivan. It has opened the door for other guys knowing you can become a professional through their program.”
“Nobody thought I was going to become a professional, but I did,” he added. “I think that’s great for the school and their baseball program as well.”
Currently in Dunedin working hard to earn another promotion for the 2015 season, Gracesqui received some exciting news on March 30th, as the Blue Jays invited him to join their major league camp.
Be sure to keep a lookout for Francisco Gracesqui as he looks to make an appearance in a Blue Jays uniform this spring, and for years to come down the road.