While the concept of a 60-man player pool affords select prospects to participate in some form of baseball activity this year, it still doesn’t replace the level of competition a player would see on the high levels of the farm.
At some point of the season, it would not be surprising to see clubs around the majors promote their most prized prospects to their respective big league squads, if only to see how they stack up against the competition.
And, even though each victory will be absolutely meaningful in this shortened season, the Dodgers could be one of those clubs.
For those of you who remember the philosophies of former General Manager Ned Colletti, you’ll recall—especially towards the end of his time in the front office—that he much preferred veterans over prospects as far as 25-man roster spots went. Part of that philosophy was because team owner Frank McCourt was not providing the necessary resources to develop a thriving minor league system (the talent was a bit minimal), but the flip side was that Colletti simply felt there was not a legit replacement for earned MLB experience and the fiery grit of a seasoned veteran.
This is perhaps the biggest difference between Colletti and current boss Andrew Friedman, who has certainly shown over recent years—see Cody Bellinger, Gavin Lux and Dustin May—that he’s not afraid to take a chance on very young talent at the highest levels of the franchise.
One of the most prized pitching prospects in the organization is 22-year-old righty Josiah Gray. According to MLB Pipeline, the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder is currently ranked as the third-best prospect in the system (just behind Lux and May), and it will not be a shocker if we see him make his MLB debut at some point this year, especially in light of all the roster loopholes created by the pandemic.
Last season, Gray, alongside Lux, was named by the Dodgers as one half of the Branch Rickey Minor League Players of the Year.
In 26 games (25 starts) combined in 2019 between Low-A Great Lakes, High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa, Gray finished with an 11-2 record, a 0.99 WHIP and a 2.28 ERA (33 ER/130.0 IP) with 147 strikeouts against just 31 walks.
The New York native started his 2019 campaign in the Midwest League, posting a 1.93 ERA (5 ER/23.1 IP) in five starts before being promoted to Rancho. In 12 Cal League starts, he went a perfect 7-0 with a 2.14 ERA (16 ER/67.1 IP), a 0.97 WHIP and a .209 opponents’ batting average, throwing many of his innings in the hitter-friendly confines of LoanMart Field. After earning a promotion to Tulsa on July 17, Gray pitched to a 2.75 ERA (12 ER/39.1 IP) across nine games (eight starts) for the Drillers.
Gray was selected in the second round of the 2018 draft by the Cincinnati Reds out of Le Moyne College in New York. He was acquired along with infielder Jeter Downs in a trade from the Reds on December 21, 2018 that saw Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer shipped back to Cincinnati.
In 38 career minor league games (37 starts) over two seasons, the right-handed pitcher is 26-7 with a 2.37 ERA (48 ER/182.1 IP) and has struck out 206 batters against 48 walks.
As far as his repertoire goes, Gray’s bread and butter is his heater, which has some natural cutting action while sitting comfortably in the mid-nineties. It has been clocked as high as 98 MPH in 2018. For his age, he commands his fastball extremely well. His slider is also considered a plus pitch, but it often lacks command, unlike his fastball. He also throws a changeup that’s somewhat raw. Presently, he’s being groomed as a starter, but based on the brilliance of his four-seamer, he could end up throwing in relief at some juncture of his career.
Without a doubt, Gray has one of the most talented arms in the organization—at least what he has shown of it thus far. Consequently, the upcoming season might just end up being a special one for him.
As crazy as this year was from a national, non-sports perspective, it might end up being even crazier in terms of a Major League Baseball season.
Keep an eye on those youngsters.