Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Can Jon Gray Overcome The “Coors Field Stigma”?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The mantra for fantasy baseball owners has always been avoid Colorado pitchers. It’s made sense, though a new class of youngsters are helping to change that philosophy. While the team has a few intriguing options as we head into 2017, it’s a long hyped prospect who leads the charge in Jon Gray.

Considered one of the better pitching prospects in the game, Gray showed his upside in 29 starts for Colorado in 2016:

168.0 IP
10 Wins
4.61 ERA
1.26 WHIP
185 Strikeouts (9.91 K/9)
59 Walks (3.16 BB/9)
43.5% Groundball Rate
.308 BABIP

Obviously the ERA will turn some off, though a 66.4% strand rate helps to skew the mark. He was also better at home than on the road, further helping his cause:

  • Home – 4.30
  • Road – 4.91

The home mark isn’t going to blow you away, but when coupled with his poor luck gives us some reason for optimism.  It also takes away the perception that he’s more of a streaming pitcher, only to be used on the road.  Obviously Coors Field brings risk, but with his skill set it’s going to be hard to simply sit him down.

He particularly struggled with his Fourseam fastball (.306 BAA). Obviously, with that being the pitch he threw most it skewed the results but it’s also something he should be able to improve on with experience.

Gray’s biggest asset is his strikeout ability. He posted a 12.1% SwStr% last season, courtesy of a lights out slider (24.87% Whiff%). He also began incorporating his curveball (11.04%), giving him a fourth pitch to help keep opposing hitters off balance.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that he found his strikeout stuff, and he’s always shown solid control (2.9 BB/9 over his minor league career). The biggest concern is going to be home runs pitching in Coors Field, as his groundball rate is hardly elite and he’s also carried an elevated line drive rate over his two years in the Majors (24.6%). The other skills do help to offset that, but it’s not enough to completely eliminate it.

He began using a sinker last season (5.14%), and while increasing its usage could limit his strikeout stuff it would also go a long way in the home run rate. That’s going to be the biggest thing to watch, though even with the status quo he has Top 30 stuff.  If he can develop that sinker he could rise into the Top 15.

You aren’t going to have to invest that heavily in order to secure Gray, as he’s currently the 48th starter coming off the board (average NFBC ADP of 182.66).  At that price tag, he’s a pitcher worth targeting in all formats.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Reference, STATS

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Make sure to check out our 2017 Rankings:

Position
Standard League
OBP League
Catcher03/20/1702/28/17
First Base01/16/1703/07/17
Second Base03/22/1703/09/17
Third Base02/06/1703/12/17
Shortstop02/13/1703/15/17
Outfield#1-20 |03/16/17

#21-40 |03/16/17
03/19/17
Starting Pitcher#1-20 |02/27/17

#21-40 |03/02/17
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Relief Pitcher01/02/17--

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