Post-Hype Breakout: Is Jon Gray Destined To Become A Top 20 Starter In 2018?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

There were high expectations for the Rockies’ Jon Gray entering the season, but early season injuries helped to derail the perception of his production.  At the end of the day, though, is anyone going to complain about these types of numbers from a pitcher maneuvering around Coors Field:

110.1 IP
10 Wins
3.67 ERA
1.30 WHIP
112 Strikeouts (9.14 K/9)
30 Walks (2.45 BB/9)
48.9% Groundball Rate
.336 BABIP

As you can see he displayed all three skills that we look for from any pitcher.  Obviously the groundball rate isn’t elite, but it’s more than enough and he’s shown an ability to avoid home run troubles in the Majors (0.82 HR/9 in ’17, 0.90 over his Major League career).  In fact he was actually better at home in 2017:

  • Home – 3.13 ERA, 0.78 HR/9
  • Road – 4.06 ERA, 0.84 HR/9

He was also better at Coors Field in ’16 (albeit with a 4.30 ERA).  Given the skill set we’d expect even better numbers on the road, and that only adds to the appeal.

It’s interesting that his SwStr% tumbled, going from 12.1% to 8.8%.  He simply wasn’t getting as many swings and misses with his slider (24.87% Whiff% to 17.66% last season), which isn’t a significant red flag but something to watch.  He was able to get swings and misses with his curveball (12.60%) and changeup (18.18%), so there’s no reason to expect him not to maintain at least a strikeout per inning.  If he improves the slider rate once again, which is very possible, things could get even better.

Throw in a minor league 3.0 BB/9 (showing the control is for real) and the potential to improve his BABIP (though we’d like to see a bit of an improvement on his 22.5% line drive rate), and you have the upside of a Top 20 starting pitcher.  Of course you shouldn’t have to pay anything close to that type of price on draft day, just making him all the more alluring.

Assuming you can grab him as a SP4 type, it’s a no-brainer to target him.  If you are in a dynasty league now may be the last chance to try and “buy low”, especially if the other owner is frustrated with the less than impressive WHIP.  Now is the time to buy, as 2018 could be his full coming out party.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Reference

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