Guys On The Rise – Josiah Gray
When it comes to prospects, talent is the biggest factor in major league production but another factor to consider in a minor league player’s rise to the majors is which team they are with. In my opinion, some of the best organizations in developing their younger players are the Rays, Indians, and Dodgers. It is pretty incredible what the Dodgers have done over the past few seasons. They have an All-Star lineup, excellent young rotation (Clayton Kershaw aside), and one of the better systems in minor leagues. Most of their young talent get a bunch of hype but one guy who I think needs a bit more hype is Josiah “JoJo” Gray.
Gray began his baseball career at LeMoyne College, a Division II school in Syracuse, New York. He was a two-way player, playing shortstop and relief pitcher, and struggled to find his groove during his first season. He added some weight and velocity during the offseason, became the closer during his sophomore year, and finished the year with a 0.63 ERA and ten saves. He moved into the starting rotation during his junior year, finishing 11-0, with a 1.28 ERA, 105 strikeouts in 93.1 innings. The Reds picked Jonathan India in the first but then selected Gray in the second, the first player from a Division II school to be selected that year. Interestingly enough, the Reds took Hunter Greene in the first round the year before, another two-way player that later switched exclusively to the mound.
Normally recently drafted pitchers do not throw many innings after being drafted, but not Gray. He threw 52.1 innings in the GCL and performed extremely well. He had a 2.58 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, struck out 59 while walking 17 batters. After not even a year with the Reds, he and Jeter Downs were off to LA in exchange for Yasiel Puig. (Sorry Reds fans)
While he is a bit undersized, Gray is very athletic on the mound, with quick arm speed. He is a drop and drive pitcher and his mechanics are not overly smooth, but it works for him. His fastball mostly sits in the low to mid-nineties and fastball that can work well up in the zone. He is also able to keep his velocity throughout the game. His cutter has a bit of a slow-slurvey action to it but has been effective as his put-away pitch.
Gray has been a fast mover in the Dodgers system, moving from Low-A to Double-A last year. What I have been most impressed with his he has kept his strikeout rate above 25%, while keeping his walks around 5%, and keeping the ball in the yard. Gray was named the Dodgers Pitcher of the Year for 2019 which is pretty good for a Division II, two-way player from a cold-weather state like New York. Managers and scouts alike have praised his makeup so I feel confident the Dodgers will work their magic and he will settle in as a mid-rotation starter within the next few years. The time to grab him in your league is closing so make a trade offer before the hype raises his price too high.