According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the A’s have officially given top-pitching prospect Sonny Gray a spot in the rotation. Gray, 23, will start on Saturday against the Blue Jays in Toronto. The former first-round draft pick will be a member of Oakland’s rotation for the foreseeable future, too.
With Tommy Milone down in Triple-A, the A’s were eventually going to need an additional starter. Rumors began to swirl once Milone was demoted around Gray’s chances at landing a spot in Oakland’s sluggish rotation. The A’s enjoyed first-half success in large part to their strong rotation and bullpen, but since the All-Star break, the A’s starters have been rather sluggish.
With new blood added to the mix, the A’s will continue their youth movement by finally giving Gray a shot to start at the big league level. He made a brief stop in Oakland’s bullpen last month, logging in four scoreless innings of work. He recorded six strikeouts and one walk in his brief stop with Oakland.
As I have noted many times on this site, the smaller-framed Gray has a shot at being a solid starter in the majors. The A’s seemingly always find pitching talent and usually have a good idea when to call that talent up through the rankings. Gray performed well in Triple-A this year and his rise to the show is well-earned, if not well-timed.
In 20 starts this year with the River Cats, Gray went 10-7 with a 3.42 ERA over 118.1 innings of work. He recorded 118 strikeouts to just 39 walks.
The former Vanderbilt Commodore essentially has three pitches: a fastball with good movement that usually tops out around 95 mph and a solid breaking ball that he is not afraid to use. Gray has also added an improved change-up to his pitching arsenal.
Gray posted a 8.97 K/9 rate as well as a 2.74 FIP with the River Cats. The numbers show some natural progression from a year ago. Last year, Gray made 26 starts with Double-A Midland and posted a 4.14 ERA with a 5.90 K/9 rate. He’s improved his strikeout rate while also cutting down on his walks (2.97 BB/9 vs. last year’s 3.47).
Overall, Gray has a legitimate shot at finding success with the A’s.
The A’s play in a pitcher-friendly ball-park and given Gray’s strikeout numbers, Oakland might have yet another strong young arm in their rotation. He’s been flying under the radar, but come Saturday, Sonny Gray will finally have his shot at proving he belongs. The job in the rotation will ultimately be his until he proves otherwise.