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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
HAGSAG: I have not seen Joe Nathan out on the field, but he is supposedly at the UAPC.
ERIC S: Best outing I've ever seen from Manny Rondon, and I've seen most of his outings since the Cubs got him from the Angels.
M. Rondon is competing with six others (Dylan Cease, Bryan Hudson, Jose Paulino, Pedro Silverio, Jesus Castillo, and Erling Moreno) for a starting slot at Eugene, and (as you can probably tell from the EXST box scores) the competition has gotten fierce over the last couple of weeks, With the exception of Moreno, the Eugene SP candidates have upped their game lately, and M. Rondon's outing yesterday was especially impressive/dominating.
E-MAN: Pierce Johnsion was mixing a 92-94 MPH fastball with a plus-change-up AND curve, and he threw strike-after-strike-after-strike with all three of his pitches. I believe that was the best command and pitch-efficiency I've ever seen from Johnson, who often pitches from behind in the count and issues too many walks.
Of course now he has to avoid a recurrence of the lat strain (whch he has had previously in his career) as well as all of the other miscellaneous physical problems he's had over the last three years (hamstring, quad, back, etc).
PHIL: Any movement on P. Johnsons pitches? What was his "out" pitch? I know he was working on a 4th pitch, so wondering what he is looking like these days. Thanks.
AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.
Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!
Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.
With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.
it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.
It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.
Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.
That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.
I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.
Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...
These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.
No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.
a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...
it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...
Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.
Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.
Soler BB acumen and plate awareness is excellent. Not unusual for even the best players to react as if they were about to hit them, "even though they weren't that close" from your vantage point sitting on your deck, or wherever.
soler vs inside breaking balls is scary.
he's had 2 inside curve balls today where he reacted as if they were about to hit him even though they weren't that close...one he bailed out of the box on, it was a called strike.