Late Round Pitching Target: Is Jon Gray The Epitome Of A Post-Hype Sleeper?

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Looking to fill out your fantasy pitching staff?  This series of articles will focus on some fliers that are well worth taking, despite a few potential risks (i.e. a spot in the rotation, injury concerns, etc.).

The Rockies’ Jon Gray could be the epitome of a post-hype sleeper, as there are two key points that appear to be dragging down his perceived value:

  1. The stigma of pitching half his games at Coors Field
  2. His abysmal performance from 2018 (5.12 ERA, 1.35 WHIP over 172.1 IP)

There’s not much we can do about the first point, barring a trade, though prior to 2018 home runs had never been an issue in the Majors.  Last season he posted a 1.41 HR/9, though he continued to display the improved groundball rate of 2017 (48.9% and 47.5% over the past two seasons).  That’s not to say that he won’t have his issues, but it’s fair to assume that he’s going to be able to improve (it was a second half swoon that dragged the mark down, as he was at a 1.00 HR/9 in the first half).

That improvement, along with his swing and miss stuff and control, should yield solid/strong results regardless of where he calls home.  Even during his struggles he posted a 9.56 K/9 and 2.72 BB/9, courtesy of a 12.3% SwStr%.  He had two pitches that he could rely on to get swings and misses, in his slider (20.08% Whiff%) and curveballs (18.05%) which makes it all the more believable that he maintains a strikeout per inning.

Gray also owns a Major League career 2.84 BB/9 (over 491.1 IP).  With a 3.0 minor league career mark, that too should continue to be a source of value and lead to an improved WHIP.

We’d like to see a little bit weaker contact (36.1% Hard%), though regardless the overall luck should improve (.322 BABIP, 67.9% strand rate).  When coupled with the other positives it’s hard to believe that Gray doesn’t see significant improvement.  He has the upside of a Top 25 pitcher, and he’s coming at a fraction of that cost.  Sounds like an ideal buying opportunity, doesn’t it?

Current NFBC ADP (as of 03/12/19) – 203.64 (73rd pitcher)

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, NFBC

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