On Thursday night, MLB.com released its top 100 prospects. The MLB.com rankings are generally considered the second most accurate behind Baseball America’s, so the rankings carry some weight. And not surprisingly, Jonathan Gray, drafted third overall in last season’s draft, was ranked most highly of the four Colorado Rockies on the list (Eddie Butler, David Dahl, and Rosell Herrera are the others). The surprising thing was just how highly Gray was ranked. He ended up 14th on the list, and finished ahead of Mark Appel, which is notable because Appel was drafted two spots ahead of him in the draft.
Jonathan Gray went to college at Oklahoma, where he dominated, so he is older and more advanced than many pitchers drafted. He was drafted as a 21 year old and dominated in his first year as a professional, throwing 37.1 innings and ending with a 1.93 ERA. He also proved he has terrific stuff by posting a 51:8 strikeout to walk ratio across the rookie league and A ball. Gray’s scouting report looks something like this: he throws the ball fast. As in upper-90s fast.
His offspeed stuff is also very advanced for a player with his pro experience. He has an MLB ready slider and changeup. His control isn’t great, but it should develop. He has been compared favorably to Gerrit Cole, which is really saying something: Cole became the Pirates’ ace down the stretch last season. His stuff is that good.
It’s likely that Gray would be the best pitcher in the Rockies rotation right now. But the Rockies can’t rush him. They won’t likely compete for a playoff spot this year (although I’d love to be surprised), and calling Jonathan Gray up might stunt his development. Gray is the best pitching prospect this franchise has ever had, and he should be treated like the precious commodity that he is. I expect Gray to start this league in high-A ball, although the Rockies could surprise us by sending him directly to AA, a move that seems inevitable at some point this season.
Assuming he dominates AA, which is probably a good assumption given his stuff and pedigree, he could even be able to make the move to AAA later this season. He could make a late-season start or two for the Rockies, but don’t count on that. The main thing with Gray is continuing his development. If problems are spotted in his delivery or with his mechanics, they should be changed before he reaches Colorado. Right now, the delivery looks good. It’s smooth and he has a very easy release, which should help limit injuries. His stuff, as mentioned before, is excellent.
Jonathan Gray is one of the best prospects the Rockies have ever had, and could probably make an impact for the big-league team this season. But the Rockies are rebuilding, and Gray won’t be rushed. He could spend the entirety of this season in AA and next season in AAA. A safe prediction is that we will see Gray in the Rockies rotation at the beginning of 2016. He could well make a cameo before that, and if his development is swift he might be a mainstay by 2015, but the Rockies can not rush him and risk him being the next in a long line of failed starting pitchers. Gray is one of the Rockies most important future pieces, and will likely be treated as such.