Jon Gray Is a Riddle Wrapped in a Rockies Uniform – The Ringer (blog)
On Saturday, the Colorado Rockies demoted either one of the best or one of the worst pitchers in baseball to Triple-A. Jon Gray, the team’s 26-year-old strikeout artist, was the Rockies’ Opening Day starter for the second consecutive year, and while he’s not the first Opening Day starter to be optioned since then—Oakland’s Kendall Graveman beat him to the Pacific Coast League by more than two months—the newest member of the Albuquerque Isotopes is the most perplexing pitcher of 2018.
Although the Rockies aren’t known for developing pitchers, Gray has seemingly been bound for acehood since the franchise selected him with the third overall pick of the 2013 draft. For three springs in a row, he ranked among the best pitching prospects in the game, and by some metrics, he’s been one of the best pitchers in the majors since the day he debuted. Among pitchers with at least 400 innings since the start of 2015, Gray’s park-adjusted FIP ranks 12th (as does his per-pitch slider value), placing him in the company of past and present Cy Young candidates.
After posting the most valuable season by a rookie pitcher in Rockies franchise history in 2016, Gray got even better last year. The 6-foot-4 flamethrower, whose fastball sits at 96 and spikes close to triple digits, was one of the biggest reasons for the Rockies’ skin-of-their-teeth postseason appearance, leading Colorado pitchers in FanGraphs WAR despite amassing only 110 1/3 innings, most of which came after his late-June return from an April foot fracture.
Gray, who ranked fifth in FanGraphs WAR among major league pitchers from August 1 on, was arguably the most effective starter ever to pitch for the franchise last season, and he seemed to have cracked the Coors Field code: When he pitched at altitude, where breaking balls tend