[Editor's Note: We'd like to welcome Doug Gray to the Grading on the Curve staff. He's also joining our sister site for the Cincinnati Reds, Blog Red Machine, as a co-editor. I think you're going to really enjoy what he's bringing to the table.]
This spring we are going to take a look at scouting information on minor league pitchers that get a chance to pitch with the the Pitch F/X system running in their ballpark (this is the system that allows the MLB Gameday app to track pitches). While not every spring training facility has this, several do and give us some insight to minor league pitchers that we usually only get to see with the Major Leaguers.
Today kicks off the series by looking at the 3rd overall pick of the 2013 draft, Colorado Rockies right handed pitcher Jonathan Gray. Gray made his spring training debut on Monday afternoon against the Mariners, giving up 2 hits and a walk in 2 shutout innings with 2 strikeouts. He threw 37 pitches in the game, 24 of which went for strikes.
Before we fully dive into the information it is worth pointing out that it is still spring training and that guys are still getting into game shape and working on new/different things, so keep that in mind while reading about his performance.
Let’s dive into those 37 pitches. Gray threw 23 fastballs, 8 sliders and 6 change ups. His fastball averaged 92. 5 MPH and topped out at 95.1 MPH. His slider came in at an average of 83.1 MPH and his change up averaged 82 MPH.
Coming out of the draft, Gray sat in the mid 90’s and touched 100 MPH. He was a bit lower than that on this day with his four-seam fastball, only touching the mid 90’s with his fastball. The pitch shows good horizontal movement to go along with some rising action. His change up showed 3 inches of extra sink to it compared to his fastball. His slider was tight and ranged from 81-86 MPH on this day.
This article written by former Major League Zach Day on Baseball Prospectus talks about a whole bunch of data that can be found looking at similar information that can be found in the Pitch F/X datasource, but one that stands out is where he talks about the spin rate of pitches and shows information that indicates that the higher the spin rate on a fastball the more often hitters swing and miss at it. Fastballs with a spin rate greater than 2500 rpm are the most difficult to make contact with. Gray, despite his lower than usual velocity as he warms up this spring, had an average spin rate on his fastball of 2549 rpm with three of those pitches being over the 3000 rpm mark.
While Gray didn’t show off the elite velocity that got him drafted 3rd overall last season, he showed off an elite spin rate on his fastball even without being at the top of his game so early in the spring. That bodes well as he continues to warm up and pick up velocity through the rest of the spring and heads into the season.