Getting to Know Your Obscure Cubs: Jeff Gray

In my quest to fill out some pages at Wiklifield, I thought I'd take a deeper look at some lesser known guys in the organization that could make an impact.

Jeff Gray

The center piece as far as the Cubs were concerned when they moved Aaron Miles and Jake Fox to the A's in December(the Cubs also received Ronny Morla and Matt Spencer). The 28-year old right-hander was drafted in 2004 by the Oakland A's in the 32nd round and saw a brief 4-inning cup of coffee in 2008 despite struggling in the minors with a 4.32 ERA.  After the season, he reworked some issues with his mechanics in the AFL and enjoyed a more successful 2009 with a 1.54 ERA in Triple A over 41 innings with 16 saves and then a solid 3.76 ERA over 26.1 IP with the A's after being called up on four occasions. His strikeout rate dropped significantly in 2009, although he still maintained a fantastic K:BB ratio(4.75 in the majors, 3.76 in the minors) and keeps the ball in the park with a remarkable 0.36 HR/9 rate over his minor league career.

He claims to throw five pitches - a four-seamer, sinker, slider, changeup and curveball - but says his sinker and slider are his bread-and-butter pitches.

He'll compete for one or two bullpen spots that will be open to competition this spring. Jim Hendry compared him to Angel Guzman when the Cubs acquired him in December. I assume that was a comparision to their pitching style and not injury histories as Gray seems to have stayed healthy so far through his career. If he doesn't make the club out of spring training, he does have one minor league option left.

After the jump, the bulk of his Wiklified entry.

Miscellaneous Info

Full Name: Jeffrey Michael Gray

Height: 6'3" Weight: 205 lbs

High School: (HS) Lafayette (Balwin, MO)

College: Missouri State University

Acquired: Via trade from Oakland Athletics with 1B/OF Matt Spencer and RHP Ronny Morla for OF/3B/1B Jake Fox and INF Aaron Miles in December, 2009.

Status: Still with organization and on  the 40-man roster

Notes & News

Gray grew up in Missouri, a Cardinals fan of course, although he claimed to like the Astros as well.

He was drafted in 32nd round, 967 overall in 2004 amateur draft by Oakland Athletics. He was added to their 40-man roster before the 2008 season. After the 2008 season, he was sent to the Arizona Fall League for the second time in his career(the first in 2007) and reworked his mechanics to add some deception to his delivery, including lowering his arm slot. He also reworked his approach towards hitters, trying to focus more on pitching to contact. His strikeout rate did decline in 2009, but his walk rate and groundball rates went up, along with a better ERA. He was called up four times during the 2009 campaign with the A's, the first three he just pitched once before being sent back down and finally stuck on the roster after his final call-up in August.

Scouting Report

Worked with A's bullpen coach Ron
Romanick to add some deception to his delivery after 2008 season, including lowering his arm slot which Gray credits with his improved 2009 season.

Repertoire

A "four-seamer (up to 96 mph), a sinker, a slider, a changeup and a curveball"

Honors & Awards

Has been a member of 2 AFL championship teams(2007 and 2008 Phoenix Desert Dogs) and 2 PCL championship teams(2007 and 2008 Sacramento RiverCats).

Prospect Lists

34th on Scout.com A's list after 2009 season.
48th on Scout.com A's mid-season list during 2009 season.
47th on Scout.com A's 2008 list.
35th on Scout.com A's 2007 list that followed the season.

Comments

http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?...

"I thought I made some good adjustments and worked on the curveball a little bit. I made the pitch more what fits my style better. Instead of trying to throw a big [12-to-6] curveball, I wanted to come out with an aggressive curveball that gets guys swinging."

Hey Pancho...

He thrived on the street food in Mexicali.

"The only problem was when you did want a burger or craved some pizza, it had a Mexican twist to it," he said. "Some Tecate Lights took care of that."

oh, Cisco...

Of course I'd be thrilled if sam-ninja came through with a solid year. I'm just not expecting big things from him now. Any reports yet from AZ Phil on how these guys are looking so far?

I'm chomping at the bit here...

His numbers in Mexico were pretty good. Not sure how tough a league that is, but it would be great if we could pull another solid starter out of the ether like Wells last year.

True that. And have Wells stay true to form too. Maybe too much to ask, but I hope not.

The problem is, Rudy will counteract any style changes this guy can throw. It's just a neverending swirl of strain.

In 2010, I don't think Gray matters.

Seriously, the odds are probably even that a guy like Gray could perform just as well as a 7th inning guy as most of the retread middle relief guys that demand $2.5 million a year.

In 2010, I don't think Gray matters.
----------------
Can we get Heather Graham, too?

Going by his stats, I'm shocked Hendry was able to get someone with any potential for Miles. What did Gray do, rape Billy Beane's cousin?

Well, in reality, Hendry wasn't able to get Gray for Miles, he was able to get Gray for Fox.

True. I already forgot about our lad Jake. So sad.

Cub myths-
http://www.suntimes.com/sports/baseball/cubs/...

1-yes
2-Is Dempster still on team?(although I do agree with him)
3- If your best example of an every day player to make the team as 19 year old happened twenty years ago and is Ken Griffey JR, probably not a good example.

2. Dempster having a solid season is probably considered a given, whereas the guys he actually listed have questions.
3. It was a "notable" example, not the best. The thing about only having 31 games above A isn't really true, anyway, because the AFL is considered above A. The fact that he's fourth on the depth chart at SS probably should have been mentioned, though.

http://milb.scout.com/2/946743.html

Vitter -11, Castro - 22

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers...

no Cubs, but Homer Bailey is on there...

'09 - http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers...

'08 - http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers...

'07 - http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers... (Sean Marshall is on that one, with Rich Hill getting a special mention)

and then a THT debunking of it from
http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the...

"Can we predict injuries? Do some teams push their pitchers too hard? Well, those are questions we can at least begin to answer."

that is sooooooooooo cute. *pats it's little head*

but yeah, verd's article is smoke...some bad smoke.

"Bailey: This is probably the most troubling case on this list, if only because there was no reason to lean so hard on Bailey down the stretch. The Reds finished 13 games out. In his last nine starts, Bailey averaged 112 pitches and was given an extra day of rest only twice even as he far exceeded his previous high in innings. The club kept leaning on him because he was pitching well, but to what end?"

To make him finally learn how to fucking pitch to big league hitters?

It's not as cut-and-dried as "the extra 15 innings you pitched in 2009 are 15 less innings that you need to figure it out in 2010." But, that kid needs to pitch and needs to pitch a lot until he's some idea about how to get somebody out. The guy is one of the worst pitchers with the best stuff in baseball.

Yes, he's still young, but last year was the THIRD year they tried to bring him up and he was just piss poor awful when he got there.

I'm going to get run out on a rail for saying it, but Dusty's at least smart enough to know that Homer has be able to pitch every fifth day at some semblance of a major league level for the Reds to even have a remote chance of winning this year.

Yeah, and after he figures out how to get hitters out, he and Volquez can sit in the training room talking about it.

Not to say that those innings don't have the value of experience that you mention, but would you rather have a Cy Young pitcher on the DL or a #3 starter throw 200 innings?

They've steadily increased his workload the last 3 years. Approximately 110 total IP in 2007, 150 total IP in 2008, and 200 total IP in 2009.

The kid doesn't even pitch every fifth day in his last 9 starts to get to his inning quota and Dusty's an idiot. He got 2 extra days off. What else do you want?

Increase his work load by less than 30 innings a year.

Then he probably runs out of gas around 175 innings this year. If by some stretch the Reds are actually in it come late August, they probably wouldn't have Homer down the stretch to lean on, because he wouldn't be stretched out for 200 innings. If you're fine with that, then I guess it isn't a big deal. I would have played September 2009 much the same as the Reds did because I'm looking ahead to what I'll need in September of 2010.

The difference between increasing by 20-30 innings and 40-50 innings isn't all that dramatic from a stress standpoint. I'm sure they shortened up his side sessions in September and they probably also limited his long toss on his off days to make up for it. You can do things to limit the other strains on the arm in order to get where you need to go in an innings increase.

I'm sure the Reds organization (not just Dusty) didn't want Homer getting to 200 innings the first time in the middle of a pennant race. Now he doesn't have to.

But the evidence shows - and I am in agreement that you can't just blanket apply it across the boards to every pitcher - that 30 inning increases is the breaking point, so why push it with a guy who's got one of the top 20 arms in the game? Do you really think the Reds are the organization that has a firm grasp on which pitchers can be extended and which can't? I mean you have to go way back to 2008 at to see where they fucked up almost this exact same situation.

some guys are nolan ryan or livan hernandez...some guys are jr richard or teddy higuera.

damn, higgy was awesome.

unfortuantely, there's no DNA swab or stress/endurence test to figure any of it out.

currently the best method is not doing obviously stupid crap and paying attention to what the pitcher is saying/showing about his own body. when it comes to nitpicking over who can throw 30 more innings a year vs. 50 more innings a year there's nothing obvious about it, though. it's just too fine of a detail to err on the side of extreme caution, imo. if their body can handle it go for it...if steps can be taken in the way of extra rest or restriction of off-day activities, sure. some wouldn't take these risks, though... *shrug*

JR Richard didn't have any arm problems, and Livan Hernandez lost about 10 MPH off his fastball over the years.

No, there's no magical number, but again, which organization would you trust least with developing a young pitcher? Maybe the Royals, but the Reds are right up there. You don't take arms like these guys and experiment with them, you play it safe unless you have a good reason for having them pitch more (like a playoff spot).

There's two fallacies in the THT article.

The first, "I am too lazy to do it correctly, so I won't". I read the rest anyway.

The second is a classic example of using numbers to 'prove' anything. Here's the quote "The bottom line: a dramatic increase in innings on a young pitcher elevates the risk of injury or a setback to their development."

Say you have two groups of pitchers.

Group A goes up 50 innings from year 1 to 2. Each of them throw 150 innings. Then in year three three blow out their arms and the other six throw 200 innings, on average they only throw 10 fewer innings, but three guys conformed to the effect. To say that there was no such effect, you would have to identify all the pitchers and who blew out their arms and show that guys who didn't have the innings jump also blew out their arms at the same 30% rate.

Verducci is using a either/or evaluation, and the bozo from THT tries to refute it by hiding analysis in averages (without doing the proper research first). 8 of 11 guys from the 2006 list...

Bruce Levine Chat Transcript from today:

http://espn.go.com/chicago/chat/_/id/30863/es...

Compared Gray to a young Bobby Howry.

Geovany Soto on steroid speculations...

I wasn't strong. I was just fat."

http://www.chicagobreakingsports.com/2010/02/...

It's a good point. When he weighed more, he hit worse.

It's also an awesome quote.

left sidebar advertises the clip...

"ex-Cub Still Pitching for Schaumburg Flyers"...

I made the mistake of clicking on it.

They interviewed Carmen Pignatiello, while he was talking they show a pic of Sean Marshall and Dan Jiggetts asked what team the Flyers were associated with...

good television there..

Hard to believe him and Mike North have been regulated to 5-7 am slot with a financial show.

Which is perfect because they both don't know sports, and Mike North's last show fell victim to a Ponzi scheme who was the show sponsor.

They are missed.

evidently you don't understand satire.

har...laugh...snort...lulz.

http://www.chicagobreakingsports.com/2010/02/...

looks like case will be at end of the week

I saw that earlier today. The guy is shameless. You wuz robbed.

Recent comments

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  • Here are some possible corresponding minor league moves we might see in the aftermath  of the Chapman trade: 

    SOUTH BEND to MYRTLE BEACH: OF Donnie Dewees and INF Bryant Flete  

    EUGENE to SOUTH BEND: OF Robert Garcia and INF Vimael Machin 

    There is really no reason to replace Billy McKinney at Tennessee because both Chris Coghlan and Jorge Soler are doing their rehab at Tennessee.  

    And there are plenty of pitchers at Iowa. No need to replace Warren at AAA. .  

    Arizona Phil 10 min 12 sec ago view
  • I am 70 years old. The Cubs last played in the World Series in 1945. I was born in 1946. I hate to lose a prospect like Torres, but when the opportunity is there to get that World Series ring, you go for it. This was the idea in stock piling all this young talent. I would like to see Reddick added now and the Cubbies should be done.

    Hagsag 40 min 39 sec ago view
  • I would expect Richard to accept an optional assignment because based on how he's played this season, there is a decent chance that he won't find work elsewhere. Rather stay and potentially get a ring. Same goes for Coghlan since he's struggled mightily this year.

    Edwards should not go down. He's pitched very well and Maddon is very impressed with him. I would expect Grimm to go down for Cahill so he can get back on track (he's pitched better in July, but he's not getting enough appearances).

    chitownmvp01 44 min 13 sec ago view
  • chitownmvp01: Indeed Clayton Richard would seem to be odd man out once Chapman reports, but Richard might accept a minor league assignment if he is promised a return to Chicago on 9/1 when MLB Active List rosters expand (Richard has minor league ioptions left).

    Arizona Phil 47 min 13 sec ago view
  • The only player in the deal that would cause me a second thought is Gleyber Torres.

    McKinney and Crawford are decent prospects but both are redundant/replaceable in the system and Warren was really only a middle-reliever or #6 starter, so to me it's really just Torres for Chapman.

    Arizona Phil 1 hour 7 min ago view
  • There is no Comp pick for players traded mid-season. 2+ months of Chapman is it.

    mbauer 1 hour 9 min ago view
  • to get one of the best you have to give up one/some of your best...but it's a bit painful to watch the system's best prospect walk for any 2-3 month rental, especially one that's not an everyday player.

    crunch 1 hour 12 min ago view
  • I assume Chapman will replace Richard on the roster, but who goes down when Cahill gets activated? Maybe Grimm?

    And when Soler and Coghlan get healthy, how do they fit them on the roster when they're ready to be activated?

    chitownmvp01 1 hour 15 min ago view
  • We are giving up a lot, but it's not like we're trading Addison Russell for 2+ months of Jason Hammel. When impact players become available, they are going to cost you. The other bids could also have been high.

    Having Chapman as a rental is potentially less disruptive than having him come in with an extension in place. 

    CTSteve 1 hour 17 min ago view
  • Billy McKinney had season-ending knee surgery last August and came to Minor League Camp this year somewhat restricted. (He was used mostly as a DH in Cactus League Minor League Camp games), and I'm not sure he's 100% right now (he's repeating AA, and his XBH numbers are way down, like he's not getting good rotation in his lowev half). That might have been part of the reason why the trade wasn't completed right away.

    Arizona Phil 1 hour 24 min ago view
  • Rashad Crawford was a basketball star in HS (he was known as "Baby Jordan", and baseball was only his second sport) and he has plus-speed and athleticism, so when the Cubs drafted him (Keith Lockhart was the scout)  he was seen as a long-term project.  

    I was at Fitch Park the day that Rashad Crawford became a LH hitter, He waa never a switch-hitter, He went directly from being a RH hitter to a LH hitter, which I had never seen before. 

    Arizona Phil 1 hour 32 min ago view
  • I'm with Rob G and Johann here. It's not about Chapman as a pitcher. I just don't want to have to block out a real problem (the domestic violence) in order to try to enjoy the frivolous ball and stick game.

    Charlie 1 hour 40 min ago view
  • ROB G & BOB R: You're right. The QO can only be extended if the player spends the entire previous season with one club, so only the Yankees could have offered one to Chapman (if he wasn't traded). If an Article XX-B FA is traded during the season, the new club can't offer a QO. .

    Arizona Phil 1 hour 41 min ago view
  • i was going off what AZPhil said above...they keep talking about tweaking the rules, i didn't know if that had been changed or not. my winter/spring was way too hectic aside from a couple weeks vacation in janurary and i missed a lot of stuff.

    if not, this is one hell of an expensive trade for what looks to be 30-40 innings of play...including the playoffs. damn.

    crunch 1 hour 52 min ago view
  • Did the QO rules change?

    unless there's a TARDIS involved, I dont believe that's a possibility

    Rob G. 1 hour 56 min ago view
  • I didn't think you could offer a QO to a player who was traded during the season? For example, Lester was not offered a QO when the Cubs signed him.

    Rob Richardson 1 hour 58 min ago view