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Who IS This Guy?
Jonathan Gray is a right-handed college starting pitcher who has rocketed up the draft charts becoming one of the two most coveted picks in the draft. Coming into the college season he was a decent but not remarkable prospect, but that was before posting 127 strikeouts (in 110 IP), a 9-2 record and a 1.55 ERA (pre NCAA tournament). It was also before he unveiled improvements on a couple of standout pitches.
The first is an “80” fastball that top three digits on occasion, like it did last week (102 mph), striking out the last batter of a 129-pitch complete game in the NCAA regionals. Coming into the year, he had never shown that kind of velocity, but this year he worked between 94 and 97 all season.
He also has shows a “plus” slider that has also improved due to a tweak in the grip (running the middle finger down the right side of the horseshoe) that has increased the velocity and has tightened the break. He has also shown a curveball and changeup, though both would need to be further developed.
Who Could He Be?
Pick a name and don't be shy. He’s on track to be a #1 pitcher. But it’s been a short track.
Gray might have the most upside of any pitcher in the draft, or at the very least the most of any of the college pitchers. Compared to the other top name, Mark Appel, Gray might have the higher ceiling but has less history on which to base that prediction.
How Soon Could He Be Playing In Target Field?
The path the Twins took with Matt Garza, another first round pick (albeit 25th overall) provides a clue. Garza was fast-tracked through the system due to his success and the state of the Twins starting rotation. The best guess is…
2013 – Twins have him pitch in rookie league and maybe low A but are careful about piling much wear and tear on his arm (especially if his Oklahoma coach keeps throwing him out there for 129-pitch outings.)
2014 – High A and hopefully AA.
2015 – AA or AAA with a possible late season call-up.
If The Twins Draft This Guy, They Messed Up Because…
The most obvious paradigm in which to criticize this pick would be to say that they got carried away with a player whose value was built on one-year’s performance and improvement. But provided he signs, it would be hard to legitimately criticize, even if he doesn’t make it to the majors for some unforeseen reason. Knowing what we know, he’s the complete package and fits an area of extreme need in the organization.
If The Twins Draft This Guy, They Nailed It Because…
Well, they probably got lucky, because Gray wasn’t supposed to be available at #4 for most of the past two months. However, in Keith Law’s latest mock draft, he had Gray falling into their laps – and then the Twins passed on him for high school pitching prospect Kohl Stewart. Though the Twins are clearly enamored with Stewart, Gray has similar (if not more) upside without the risks associated of drafting a high school pitcher. Oh – and he’s likely to arrive in the majors sooner.
More than any other player in the draft, Gray might be the perfect choice for the Twins.
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