The 100-mph-throwing University of Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray, who rejected a Yankees offer for about $500,000 two years ago as a 10th-round selection, made a wise decision. He has shot up the board and is now projected to be a top-five pick in the draft, maybe even top two.
One NL scout summed up like this: "Really good. Power arm rumored to have touch 103.''
The 103 figure couldn't be verified, but scouts said he hit 101 in several recent games, including a 7-2 win over Pepperdine on March 2 and a 1-0 victory over Northwestern (La.) State on March 15. What's more, in the shutout when he struck out 12 and walked none, he hit 99 in the last inning. He also has the ability to make his fastball sink or cut.
"The key thing is he sustains his veloctiy throughout the game,'' another NL scout said.
Gray, 6-1 with a 1.19 ERA at Oklahoma this year, seems to be considered among the top five prospects, at worst, with several seeming to have him and Stanford right-hander Mark Appel right at the top, with University of San Diego third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant and two Georgia prep outfielders, Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier, right there as well.
The Astros, Cubs and Rockies, the teams holding the first three selections in this June's first-year (amateur) player draft, are said to have blanketed all of Gray's games with scouts, seeming to suggest he has a high probability to go within the top three. All three of those teams could use pitching, too.
That's not bad for a pitcher who was a 10th-rounder out of Eastern Oklahoma State College two years ago (and a 13th-rounder by the Royals out of Chandler (Okla.) High School the year before that).
The Yankees made a huge offer of around $500,000 considering the round. But Gray was throwing only 94-97 then and was viewed as maybe a bit on the clumsy side. Gray, now listed as 6-foot-4 and 239 pounds, was 8-4 with a 3.16 ERA last year at Oklahoma, and this year as a junior he has 81 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings, with only 38 hits and 13 walks.
"He's improved quite a bit. Everything's gotten better,'' one AL scouting director said. "The velocity is better. The breaking ball is definitely a lot better. Plus, he's gotten himself in better shape.''
Gray certainly is in terrific shape as far as the upcoming draft is concerned.