June 24, 2011; Omaha, NE, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores pitcher Sonny Gray (2) throws against the Florida Gators during the 2011 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

A’s 2012 Top 10 Prospects, #3: Sonny Gray

June 24, 2011; Omaha, NE, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores pitcher Sonny Gray (2) throws against the Florida Gators during the 2011 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

Every Thursday, Swingin’ A’s will unveil a top Oakland A’s prospect. Starting from number 10 and finishing with number 1, be sure to stop by every Thursday to see who makes the list of the Top 10 Oakland A’s prospects. We turn our attention now to former 1st-round draft pick Sonny Gray. Some people have their doubts about the 5-foot-11 righty, while others, like myself, see Gray as Tim Hudson, 2.0.

After spending some time drafting hitters like Grant Green and Michael Choice in previous drafts, the A’s decided to go with a pitcher with their first-round pick last year. Taken 18th overall in the 2011 draft, right-handed pitcher Sonny Gray was drafted by the Oakland Athletics.

Gray, 22, is often pegged down due to his “smaller-frame,” but the A’s drafted him in the first-round for a reason. Despite his smaller frame, Gray knows how to pitch. Gray’s stuff forces you to look beyond his smaller frame and more directly on his abilities as a pitcher.

The former Vanderbilt Commodore, Gray owns a power fastball with good movement that can also reach up to 94-95 mph. He pitches aggressively early in the count, and is not afraid to use his breaking ball to get hitters to swing and miss. Gray also has a developing changeup that he’s showing more faith in. A little more seasoning in the minors and his changeup could become an effective pitch in his arsenal.

Command wise, there are some issues with Gray. The 5-foot-11 righty has drawn extensive criticism for his mechanics, especially with his arm movement. Frankie Piliere of Scout.com, notes that there is some concern regarding Gray’s arm action; there’s some roughness with Gray’s arm action that could potentially be a problem.

However, the A’s are confident that Gray’s athleticism will help him overcome his lack of height. At 5-foot-11, Gray is hardly a towering pitcher, but he is physically strong and durable.

Gray did make an appearance last year in Double-A with the Rock Hounds, going 1-0 with a 0.45 ERA in five starts. He put in 20.0 innings of work and recorded 18 strikeouts while walking six.

He’ll likely start this year in Double-A, but he could be with the A’s as soon as 2013. There are concerns with his size and mechanics, but the former Vanderbilt Commodore has strong work ethic and great athleticism to overcome those concerns. Some see Gray better suited as a reliever in the bullpen, but the A’s didn’t waste a first-round draft pick on a reliever.

The A’s drafted Gray as a starter. The righty has the ability to pitch and has the raw stuff that forces you to take notice of his abilities rather than focus solely on his size.

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