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Leading up to Colorado Rockies spring training 2016, we will be profiling a number of interesting players for fans to keep their eyes on. We will be focusing on specific elements of each player’s game or health or even occasionally statistics as a kind of viewer guide while the team is in Scottsdale.
Our first player to watch is right-handed starting pitcher Jonathan Gray.
Still technically a rookie despite pitching over 40 innings in 2015, it’s worth throwing everything you think you know about John Gray out the window. Previously on a few strict limits, some public and some not, 2016 will be the first look at an unbridled and unrestricted version of Gray, who hopes to cement himself at the top of the Rockies rotation for years to come.
Gray Is battling it out with Chad Bettis and Jorge De La Rosa for opening day starter. If those players perform well in spring training despite great performance from Gray, he would likely find himself behind them because both have it longer track record of success and have earned their place. This is assuming neither has a disastrous spring.
Regardless of where he ends up, it would take some pretty appalling signs or an injury to keep him out of the opening day rotation. What kind of signs?
Jon Gray has been pretty healthy so far in his career but has also experienced fatigue near the end of most of each season. Some of that can be attributed to getting accustomed to the professional game, some due to the fact that he is still young. But the Rockies now have every reason to expect John Gray to show up in the proverbial best shape of his life. He’s a big kid with a big arm and if he can harness his natural athleticism and turn his body into its best self, he could become a workhorse the likes of which this team has not seen since Ubaldo Jimenez.
Like so many pictures over the years, and especially today, Gray relies on his fastball to be successful. Judging purely on average velocity can be misleading since going all the way back to college Gray has had the tendency to dip into the lower 90s if he feels he needs a bit of extra control.
Still, when he is going best, he sits in the mid-90s with a ton of late movement. There have been conflicting reports on whether or not Gray can still reach triple digits or if he has the command he flashed throughout his minor league career but has yet to show up consistently at the highest level.
Keep your eye on how well he’s hitting the catcher’s target especially early in camp. As spring training rolls on it will be nice to see him hit at least 97 on the radar gun.
While it is true the during the regular season Gray will rely on his fastball, his off-speed pitches are likely to see plenty of action during spring both to test how far they’ve come in development and to help further that development along. This is one of the reasons you can’t get too carried away one way or the other over statistical outcomes, especially for young pitchers. By the end of spring training, the Rockies would like to see Gray ready to become the ace that both they and he think he can become.
We won’t know for sure by the end of March who Jonathan Gray truly is, but if the rumors of the demise of his fastball’s velocity and location prove to be false, Rockies fans can start to get excited. Conversely, should said rumors prove to be true and the fastball to be erratic, the potential for the Rockies to come even close to contention in 2016 takes a massive hit.