Colorado Rockies: Let’s All Remember Jon Gray Is Human

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Mar 1, 2015; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Colorado Rockies pitcher Jon Gray poses for a portrait during photo day at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies – and, well, all of us – had high hopes for Jon Gray after a solid spring, but he’s scuffled at AAA Albuquerque. 

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Ever since the Colorado Rockies drafted him, Jon Gray has been on the fast track to the Major Leagues – a track that hadn’t been interrupted until, well, his final Spring Training start against the Chicago Cubs.

From there, things only got worse as Gray got lit up again… and again… and again in Albuquerque, struggling to find his way with the Isotopes as Rockies fans pondered whether he’d be available to help an ailing rotation in Denver.

On Sunday morning, the Denver Post‘s Patrick Saunders published a very good piece about Gray’s struggles and strength, interviewing him about the process of finding success in Albuquerque while maintaining his prospect status.

There’s a lot of good in that piece, and it’s worth the read, but a few points stand out. First, Gray’s attitude and outlook – taken directly from him, with no secondary assumptions – is honest and refreshing:

"Jon Gray spoke softly, measuring his words. “I just want people to see, to know, that I’m not panicking,” he said. “There is a bigger picture here. There is a reason I have to go through some things.” What Gray is going through right now is not pretty — and for Rockies fans, desperate for an upgrade in the team’s woeful starting pitching, it’s downright painful to watch.“Yeah, I think it’s a little tougher than I thought it would be,” Gray said in a phone interview. “I was facing major-leaguers during spring training and I didn’t have this many problems. So, yeah, it’s caught me off guard a little bit. But I have to accept that I still have things to learn.”"

Whether it’s just a big-time prospect who knows how to say all the right things, or a young pitcher mature beyond his years, Gray seems to be the type of pitcher the Rockies need to thrive in Denver; somebody whose mental toughness exceeds the physical gifts, and somebody who understands a baseball season – and career – is that proverbial marathon, rather than a sprint.

In a way, struggling now might even be the best thing for his big league career; things only get tougher at the next level, so why not learn adversity before reaching the biggest stage in the world, as opposed to coasting through the minor leagues?

The other important takeaway I had from Saunders’ piece is that it’s important to put Gray’s development into perspective. To wit:

"Class of 2013Oklahoma’s Jon Gray was one of nine college pitchers selected in the first round of baseball’s 2013 draft. A look at how those nine are faring:Pick, PitcherAgeParent ClubCurrent ClubW-LERA1. Mark Appel23AstrosDouble-A Corpus Christi2-04.573. Jon Gray23RockiesTriple-A Alburquerque1-39.1315. Braden Shipley23D-backsDouble-A Mobile2-12.6418. Chris Anderson22DodgersDouble-A Tulsa3-35.3419. Marco Gonzales*23CardinalsTriple-A Memphis4-24.1520. Jonathan Crawford**23RedsSingle-A DaytonInjuredInjured23. Alex Gonzalez23RangersTriple-A Round Rock1-45.3329. Ryne Stanek23RaysSingle-A Charlotte1-21.9931. Jason Hursh23BravesDouble-A Mississippi0-28.72*Statistics were compiled in the major leagues with the Cardinals last year**Drafted by the Tigers; traded to the Reds in December 2014"

Colorado product Marco Gonzales seems to be thus far the cream of the draft class (at least, for pitches) but Gray is one of only three hurlers from that first round who’s even reached AAA thus far.

Sure, he has high expectations and the Rockies have a very significant need on the mound, but relative to those around him, he’s still at worst on schedule, and at best, ahead of the curve.

Jon Gray will be fine. Or, hell, maybe he’ll bust. A lot of things can happen in a baseball career! But either way, his career won’t be decided this season, and his struggles in AAA now, while a little disheartening to see, aren’t the death knell for his future in Denver.

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I still believe Gray will spend the majority of this season – if not all of it – in AAA. And that’s OK! You’d rather have him for the proverbial long haul than rush him too quickly to the big leagues.

None of it means he’s not a prospect, and none of these struggles mean he won’t still be the pitcher Rockies fans had started to see turn the corner in Spring Training this season.

As tough as it is, considering the current state of affairs in the Rockies’ rotation, give Gray some time to develop. Because thanks to Saunders’ great piece, it sure seems as though Gray himself is playing the long game this year.

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