Jonathan Gray fell into the laps of the Colorado Rockies, who held the third-overall selection of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft. The Houston Astros opted to go with Mark Appel, believed to be the “safe” pick between the two starting pitchers, with the first selection.
Gray was congratulated by his teammates and coaches after being selected by the Rockies, according to Oklahoma Baseball on Twitter:
Speculation was in full force leading up to draft night and many, including MLB.com writer Jonathan Mayo, believed it would be Gray, not Appel, who the dismal Astros would take with their top pick.
Generally, between the two, the 6’4”, 239-pound Gray is believed to have more potential to reach stardom on baseball’s biggest stage.
In 2013, the Oklahoma Sooners right-hander improved markedly on his impressive sophomore season. Gray recorded a 10-2 record in 18 starts, striking out 138 batters while issuing just 22 free passes. His 1.56 ERA stands out the most, a large improvement from his 3.16 ERA a season ago.
His arm-strength and increasing control helped him achieve those impressive results. With a fastball that can hit 100 mph on the gun, there’s no telling the level of success he can achieve.
Houston may have gotten a solid prospect in Appel, but they missed out on a potentially dominant front-of-the-rotation ace in Gray.
Bill Schmidt, Colorado’s vice president of scouting, modestly said, “Jonathan is a good kid who we feel he has a chance to be a quality starting Major League pitcher,” according to Irv Moss of the Denver Post.
It’s surprising, to a degree, for a franchise that has been bad for so long to pass up a potential all-star like Gray. Playing it safe has its merits too, but taking chances often times gives back the biggest return.
Houston's management clearly are not gambling men.
This doesn’t mean that Appel won’t end up being a solid rotation contributor for the Astros down the line. But when comparing the two prospect’s career trajectories in the coming years, it will become painstakingly clear that the team made the wrong decision on draft day.
Don’t misconstrue this shining endorsement of Gray by expecting immediate results from the youngster. It may take him a little time to develop a third pitch to pair with his already impressive fastball-slider combination. Although that’s more of a question of if rather than when.
Watching Gray pitch in the big leagues is going to haunt the Astros' scouting department for the next decade-plus. Luckily Houston moved back to the American League, minimizing the amount of times it will have to see on the mound, if at all.
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