BLUF: Raw power right-handed starter with dominating frontline potential.
The Player: Jonathan Gray (RHP, University of Oklahoma) – Started his college career at Eastern Oklahoma State College before transferring to Oklahoma as a sophomore. Posted a 3.16 ERA in 18 starts for the Sooners in 2012, including 104 strikeouts in 102.2 innings pitched. Through ten starts this year has posted a spectacular 1.09 ERA and 7-1 record. In 74.1 innings so far, he has allowed only 40 hits and 13 walks while strikeout out 91 batters.
Basis of Report: Compilation – Industry Contacts
Body (6-4, 240): Big, physical guy. Not well-conditioned but has good strength and plenty of mass to use for momentum. Fringy athlete. Always likely to be a burly guy more than a chiseled physical specimen.
Delivery/Mechanics: Pretty smooth with good arm action and an easy release. Ball jumps out of his hand. Stabs a bit on the back side but it doesn’t hinder the arm stroke or the timing of the rest of the delivery. Gets to his balance point consistently and explodes to the plate from there. Very quick arm. Some effort toward the finish with a hard fall to first base. Won’t field.
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Wind-up): High – 99, Low – 93, Average 94-95, Grade – 70/70
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Stretch): High – 98, Low 94, Average 94-95, Grade – 70/70
Fastball (FB) Movement: Late life. Ball jumps out of the hand and explodes on hitters. Has more movement in lower velo registers. Flattens out at elite velocity. Very difficult to square. Can bore in on RHH consistently. Easy plus movement when he doesn’t overthrow. Grade – 60/60
Overall Fastball: Outstanding pitch. True dominator. Velo sits in plus-plus range every time out, can touch elite range when he needs a little more and could sit in elite range in shorter bursts. Holds velo well thanks to strength. Overwhelming combination of velo and movement at its best. Grade – 70/70
Slider (SL): Shows short, sharp break with depth and minimal horizontal movement. Thrown hard in the 84-87 mph range. Pitch comes out looking like FB and then darts down as it approaches the hitting zone. Can be dominating out pitch when on. Needs consistency with pitch but has tremendous potential. Typically throws it for strikes and needs to learn to throw it out of the zone as a chase pitch. Plus-plus potential with tweaks. Grade – 60/70
Change-up (CH): Will throw occasional CH with some intrigue. Has some arm-side wiggle when he really lets it go and turns it over. Well below-average overall and needs considerable development to be useable against professional hitters. Shows willingness to throw it and work to develop pitch. Could be average long term but needs multiple grade jump to get there. Average future is lofty for me right now; needs to show improved feel as a pro. Grade – 30/40
Control: More of a thrower than pitcher but repeats delivery and arm slot well enough to consistently find the strike zone. FB is consistently thrown for strikes, as is SL. CH can be hit or miss but has improved control of the pitch this spring. Overall average strike thrower with potential for more as he continues polishing his game and gains additional feel. Grade – 50/60
Command: Even with a relatively clean delivery, I don’t see the command profile. Lacks athleticism and if the body gets away from him a bit, the command will regress rather than improve. Below-average at present. Has tendency to miss up with FB and to the arm side with CH. Doesn’t show ability to move FB in and out, up and down at will. With overwhelming stuff, below-average command may suffice for him to remain in a rotation. Benefit of the doubt given dramatic improvements this year and can see hints of average command long term. Grade – 40/50
Summation: Huge ceiling Very physical guy with ability to hold velocity and potential to devour innings at the professional level. FB sits plus-plus and consistently reaches elite range when he reaches back for it. Throws strikes but doesn’t locate FB. Can dominate weaker hitters with FB alone, thanks to velocity and movement. SL could be second plus-plus pitch. Really impressive when he has it working. Can miss bats with darting action down in the zone. FB-SL combo is potentially lethal with refinement. CH is well behind other two pitches but shows some flashes of potential with decent arm speed and some wiggle. Command and control will be a question. Lacks the stereotypical indicators of future command, making confident projection a difficult task. Has all the raw ingredients to become a front-of-the-rotation monster but with a limited track record and some grade jumps required at the bottom of the profile, I’m hesitant to get too aggressive with his projection.
Relative Risk: High. High level success is still relatively new and has not been sustained. Will have to prove that command profile can either develop or play against advanced professional hitters.
Draft Projection: Gray has vaulted himself from intriguing power arm to one of the top prospects in the draft. With continued success over the next six weeks, he could come off the board in the top five picks. Shouldn’t last pas the top ten barring some regression in stuff or performance.