Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Meet a Prospect Special Edition: OMG IT’S SONNY GRAY

Ladies and gentleman for the foreseeable future it is always going to be Sonny here in the Bronx after the New York Yankees acquired the Oakland Athletics right-hander before the July 31st trading deadline. As we all know by now the Yankees sent center fielder Dustin Fowler, shortstop/center fielder Jorge Mateo and right-handed starting pitcher James Kaprielian back in the deal for Gray and cash considerations but do we as a fan base really know what we are getting back in Gray? The problem with players who play on the West Coast like Gray has with the Oakland Athletics is I don’t believe they get truly appreciated since a lot of the country is asleep when they are doing their best work. Thank goodness for the internet, for MLB Network and Sportscenter and for Meet a Prospect Special Editions here on The Greedy Pinstripes. This is Meet a Prospect: The Sonny Gray Special Edition.

Sonny Douglas Gray was born on November 7, 1989 in Nashville, Tennessee to Cindy and Jesse Gray and lived in Nashville until his family moved to Smyrna, Tennessee before Sonny’s eight grade year. Sonny attended Smyrna High School while in Smyrna, Tennessee but his high school career started out with a tragedy. Sonny lost his father in a car accident during his freshman year of high school. Gray did not let that deter him on the field and may have even used baseball as a coping mechanism as the right-hander was named Freshman of the Year in District 9AAA as a left fielder and pitcher. Gray battled injuries during his sophomore season, a sign of what was to come unfortunately, but came back strong to close out his high school career posting an 11-2 record and a 0.95 ERA as a junior followed up by a 4-0 record and 0.79 ERA as a senior before once again succumbing to injury. Some of the injuries may have come while Gray was also the high school’s starting quarterback in football as he guided the team to back-to-back 5A State titles in 2006 and 2007.

Gray was drafted out of High School by the Chicago Cubs in the 27th round of the 2008 MLB Draft but opted to go through with his commitment to Vanderbilt University where he began his collegiate career. Gray started out at Vanderbilt as a relief pitcher where the righty collected four saves before the team moved him to their starting rotation. Gray excelled as the team’s ace going 10-5 with a 3.48 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 2010 followed by a dominating 12-4 record and 2.43 ERA with 132 strikeouts in 2011. In 2011, Gray’s junior season, the right-hander led Vanderbilt to their first-ever College World Series berth reaching the semifinals before losing to national runner-up Florida. Gray did enough during that junior season and in the College World Series to catch the attention and the eyes of scouts in the Oakland Athletics organization who drafted him 18th overall in the 2011 MLB Draft. Gray decided to forego his senior season and signed with Oakland for a $1.54 million signing bonus.

Gray dominated the Athletics minor league system from 2011 – 2013 before ultimately getting called up to the Major Leagues on July 10, 2013 to replace Dan Straily. Gray made his MLB the same day out of the Oakland bullpen pitching two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates giving up just one hit while not allowing a run or a walk. Gray had three strikeouts in the performance which would net him a second appearance with the team before being sent back down to the minors. Gray would return on August 10 to make his first MLB start against the Toronto Blue Jays and Mark Buehrle and the right-hander did enough to never get sent back down. Gray helped lead Oakland to the postseason in 2013 and even started Game 2 of the American League Division Series against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers. In that playoff start Gray pitched eight shutout innings before the Athletics walked off in the bottom of the ninth to win the game. With that start the Athletics had the confidence to start Gray in Game 5 of that series once again facing off with Verlander for Detroit. Gray was not as sharp this time allowing three runs in 5+ innings resulting in a 3-0 loss for Oakland and an elimination from the American League playoffs.  

Gray started on Opening Day for the Athletics in 2014 against the Cleveland Indians and after a couple AL Pitcher of the Month Awards the Oakland right-hander led the Athletics right back to the playoffs in 2014. The A’s would once again see their season end earlier than they wanted as the team lost the AL Wild Card Game to the Kansas City Royals in extra innings. Gray was back on the mound in 2015 for Opening Day and continued to pitch well enough that the righty made his first All-Star Game appearance for the American League. Gray finished the season with a 14-7 record and a 2.73 ERA which placed him third in the AL Cy Young Award voting behind Dallas Keuchel and David Price. Gray came into the 2016 looking to build on that successful 2015 season but injuries hampered the right-hander and landed him on the disabled list twice that season. Gray finished with an underwhelming 5-11 record and a 5.69 ERA which may have led to him falling out of grace with the A’s.

Gray pitched well in 2017 for Oakland and more importantly he stayed healthy until the July 31st trading deadline when the New York Yankees and their GM Brian Cashman came calling. Gray will now don Yankees pinstripes for the next three seasons or longer and will look to be the future and the ace of the staff here in the Bronx. Gray brings along with him a four-seam fastball that sits around the 92-93 MPH but can also touch as high as 95 MPH, a high-80’s MPH slider, a curveball that sits in the low 80’s MPH, a cutter that sits around 92 MPH and a changeup that usually sits around 88 MPH.

Welcome to the family Sonny! It’s always going to be Sonny in the Bronx from now on thanks to you. 

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)