Jon Gray: N.L. Rookie of the Year Candidate in 2016?

Jon Gray made his MLB debut in the tail-end of the 2015 season; however, with rookie eligibility heading into 2016, is he a front-runner for Rookie of the Year?

The Colorado Rockies selected Jon Gray, out of the University of Oklahoma, with the third overall pick (1st round) in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft. Jon Gray regularly hit triple digits with his fastball as a member of the Sooners’ pitching staff, vaulting his draft stock heading into the draft. In addition to a plus-fastball, Jon Gray possesses an above-average slider and change-up. Moreover, Jon Gray is working on a curveball to expand his arsenal heading into 2016.

Jon Gray possesses the best “stuff” out of any of the Colorado Rockies’ prospects, but he needs to work on his command to catapult himself into the upper echelon of starting pitchers. With the ability to touch 100 mph with his fastball, Jon Gray has the ability to mix up his pitches and keep hitters off balance on a regular basis. Jon Gray enters the 2016 season as the Colorado Rockies’ top rated pitcher, and many project him to be one of the most impressive right-handed pitchers in 2016.

Jon Gray made his MLB debut in the latter portion of the 2015 season; however, the Colorado Rockies kept him on a strict pitch count to limit his innings and exposure. There is speculation that the Colorado Rockies could limit his innings again in 2016, but after throwing 124.1 and 154.1 innings pitched in 2014 and 2015, respectively, it makes sense for the Colorado Rockies to allow Jon Gray to make the jump to the 180-200 innings pitched threshold. 

Jon Gray made nine starts for the Colorado Rockies in 2015, and he did not record his first decision until his eighth start of the season. Jon Gray finished the 2015 season with an 0-2 record, but he did not pitch past the sixth inning in any start on the season. Moreover, Jon Gray only recorded five or more innings pitched in four of his nine starts, strictly due to his pitch count limit.

By registering 40.2 innings pitched in 2015, Jon Gray carries rookie eligibility heading into the 2016 season, and he looks poised to improve on his numbers from a season ago. While a 5.53 ERA in 2015 is unsightly, digging deeper into Jon Gray’s stats shows promise, posting a 3.63 FIP and 3.84 xFIP, with an impressive 8.85 strikeout rate (K/9). Also, Jon Gray demonstrated an advanced ability to keep the ball in the ballpark, registering a 0.89 HR/9 through nine starts. 

If Jon Gray wants to find success at Coors Field, he needs to keep up his strikeout and home run rates. In 2016, Jon Gray will be up against some stiff competition for N.L. Rookie of the Year, with Corey Seager, Steven Matz, and Trea Turner among other notable rookie to watch for the upcoming season. The Colorado Rockies have not had a dominant pitcher in their rotation since Ubaldo Jimenez‘s dominant season in 2010, but Jon Gray has the tools to match that great season.

Jon Gray has the chance to become the best pitcher in Colorado Rockies history, as he certainly has the most impressive tools on the roster. The one obstacle standing in Jon Gray’s way is honing in on his command. If Jon Gray can pinpoint his fastball command, it virtually changes his fastball in four different pitches, with off-speed complements to keep hitters off balance.

The Colorado Rockies need to loosen the reins on their young, powerful pitcher in 2016. By letting Jon Gray increase his workload, this allows the rookie to earn much-needed experience to better himself in future seasons, as he progresses to becoming the Colorado Rockies’ future ace. Look for an impressive Spring Training out of Jon Gray, with him cracking the Big League roster out of camp.

Jon Gray has the chance to be the N.L. Rookie of the Year in 2016 by cutting down on his walks. The future looks bright for both Jon Gray and the Colorado Rockies. Keep an eye on this rookie heading into 2016.