Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Has The Time Come To Write Off Jon Gray?

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Despite pitching in Colorado Jon Gray has often been viewed as a high-upside, breakout candidate. Unfortunately, while he’s shown flashes of reaching that ceiling he’s failed to consistently show it. The 2020 campaign was no different, and while injury played a role it’s not the only excuse for this abysmal season:

39.0 IP
2 Wins
6.69 ERA
1.44 WHIP
22 Strikeouts (5.08 K/9)
11 Walks (2.54 BB/9)
36.7% Groundball Rate
.293 BABIP

His strikeout rate plummeted, as did his groundball rate. Gray did opt to throw his changeup significantly more in ’20, going from 2.76% in ’19 to 13.07%. That change helps to justify the drop in his groundball rate, as the pitch produced a 26.32% GB/BIP last season. Pitching in Coors Field anything that leads to more flyballs is obviously a concern, and his 1.38 HR/9 last season shows why.

Gray also wasn’t fooling opposing hitters very often, and he saw both his SwStr% (9.9%) and O-Swing% (27.8%) regress. His slider is best swing and miss pitch, and he was using it slightly less in ’20 (29.18%). Obviously that doesn’t justify the type of drop in strikeout rate that we saw, but the stuff still showed more like a 7.50 K/9 type and not a strikeout per inning pitcher.

Just adding to the confusion with his pitch usage is how well opposing hitters produced against his changeup as compared to his fourseam fastball and slider (BAA // SLG):

  • Fourseam Fastball – .261 // .359
  • Changeup – .526 // 1.053
  • Slider – .188 // .563

While he did allow 3 HR on his slider, the production against his changeup is highly concerning. It was just 8 starts, so we’d hope that he makes the necessary adjustments. Is it a guarantee? Of course not, and the risk clearly outweighs the potential reward. At this point he’s a hands off proposition.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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