Unlike Stanford pitcher Mark Appel (who we took a look at it in our first Draft Profile) Jonathan Gray wasn’t always a consensus top prospect. The Oklahoma right-hander has steadily increased his draft stock throughout the 2013 collegiate season, impressing scouts and experts with an impressive leap in production and performance.
It all starts with Gray’s electric stuff. Watching this video (taken by user Steve Fiorindo on YouTube) of Gray pitching against UCLA this March gives a great example of why scouts are so excited about him. His fastball sits at around 94-97 mph (an increase from his velocity last season) and routinely touches 99-100 early in games. When Gray is hitting the strike zone, this pitch alone is enough to overwhelm weak batters. Gray has been a workhorse due to his ability to lose very little velocity late in games.
His secondary options are less impressive, but Gray does feature a hard slider (around 84 mph) that shows potential and frequently misses bats when he shows good control. He also throws a change-up infrequently, but that pitch is so unpolished that it needs work before he can throw it consistently.
His statistics have improved with his stuff (stats once again from the very useful College Splits):
Gray’s ERA is down nearly two runs from last year (3.16), his K/9 has risen by more than a full strikeout, and opposing batters are averaging just .152 after they hit .267 against him in 2012. He’s already hit 81 innings in 11 games after pitching 102.2 in 18 last season. Barring a decline through the last few games of the 2013 season, Gray should eclipse his 2012 numbers in every category.
Unfortunately, Gray may not be as polished as fellow top draft prospect Mark Appel. In a recent scouting report, Baseball Prospect Nation noted that Gray has below average command which could regress over time. The scouting report also calls Gray “more of a thrower than a pitcher” who is simply an “average strike thrower” at this point in time.
Gray’s improvement from 2012 to 2013 is definitely a great sign for his development as a pitcher. If he continues to work on his game, he has all the tools to be a top starter in the league.
The potential is there for Gray. Despite his rawness, he’s a high ceiling prospect and definitely worthy of a top selection in this year’s amateur draft. He may be unpolished, but Gray could be something special.