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Draft : : Top Prospects
50 in 50: Sonny Gray
   
Published: Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sonny Gray
RHP / Vanderbilt

Bats/Throws:                R-R
Height/Weight:             5-11/195
Hometown:                   Smyrna, Tenn.
Previously Drafted:       Cubs ’08 (27)
Birthdate:                     Nov. 7, 1989

SCOUTING PROFILE: Gray might rank alongside UCLA righthander Gerrit Cole as the premier college arm in this year’s draft crop were it not for the simple, inescapable fact that he is a sub-six-footer—and righthanded, to boot. Scouts traditionally distance themselves from that demographic, but there seems little doubt that a club will roll the dice on Gray in June, probably in the first 6-8 picks. In Gray’s case, there is simply no way of ignoring the inescapable conclusion that Gray has a big arm, superior athletic ability and instinctive feel for pitching. For added measure, he has had a superior track record throughout his career at a Tennessee high school, in three years at Vanderbilt and in two summers with Team USA’s college national team. There remains some debate in the scouting community whether Gray will remain a starter at the pro level or may be better served pitching in short stints, but he appears well-equipped for either role. As a starter, Gray has run his fastball at a steady 92-97 mph, and not only can he locate it up and down in the strike zone, but he can make it cut and sink at will. His cutter typically is clocked from 91-93, his sinker from 89-92. Gray also has excellent command of an exceptional breaking ball that normally ranges from 81-84 mph, but he has an uncanny ability to add and subtract from it, and has been known to catch a hitter off guard by throwing it as high as 86 or as low as 76. Gray has become a more complete pitcher this spring because of the development of his changeup as a viable third pitch. He normally throws that offering at 82-85 mph, and has used it a number of times to get big outs against both lefthanded and righthanded hitters. In the past, Gray often lost velocity on his fastball when he tried to incorporate his change. If clubs remain uncomfortable with his size and the extra effort he generates in his delivery, Gray could make a seamless transition to closer as his fastball has reached 99 mph on the rare occasions that he has been used in that role. His fierce competitive approach to pitching might even be better suited for an end-of-game role. Through 10 starts this spring for the No. 3-ranked Commodores, Gray is 8-2, 2.00 with 46 hits allowed and 29 walks in 67 innings, to go with 80 strikeouts. As a Friday-night starter for Vanderbilt as a sophomore, he went 10-5, 3.48, and was even more dominant during the summer in his second tour of duty with USA Baseball’s college national team, working six innings of a combined no-hitter in his first start and going 3-0, 0.38 overall with 37 strikeouts and four walks in 24 innings. The general criticism that scouts have with smaller pitchers is their inability to withstand a starter’s workload over a long professional season and also their tendency to lose plane and pitch up in the zone. But Gray addresses both those concerns as he can squat more than 400 pounds and is very strong in his lower half. He also has a surprising downhill tilt to his pitches, stemming mainly from a long stride that enables him to extend down the mound like a much-taller pitcher. He also pitches down in the strike zone consistently, so his smaller frame may not prevent him from becoming a starter down the road. The biggest specific knock scouts continue to have with Gray is his fringe-average command. If anything, though, he walks more batters than he should because of how much he pitches off his curveball in college. At the pro level, when he’ll pitch more off his fastball, his walk total should decrease. His command to both sides of the plate has improved drastically over his college career, and should continue to improve. He also is one of the best fielding pitchers in the country and controls the running game extremely well. Gray has long been one of the more-recognized and most-accomplished athletes ever produced in Tennessee, and was named the state male high school athlete of the year as a high-school junior. His high school football team won the state 5-A championship that year, and Gray was named first team all-state after passing for more than 2,200 yards and running for 10 more touchdowns. On the baseball field, Gray led Smyrna High to the state finals, going 11-1, 0.78 with 139 strikeouts on the mound while hitting .461-10-43. Had he chosen to sign a professional baseball contract out of high school in 2009, he almost certainly would have been a first-round pick. Gray, however, is a close friend of ex-Vanderbilt lefthander David Price, the No. 1 overall pick in 2007, and had a full appreciation for Price’s rise from a mid-round pick out of a Tennessee high school to the top of the draft after three years with the Commodores, and Gray almost certainly will follow a similar career path.

Projected Draft Position: First round / top 6-10 picks.

--ALLAN SIMPSON

Perfect Game Events Attended

    2007 National Showcase
    2007 WWBA 2007 Grads or 18u National Championship
    2007 WWBA 2008 Grads or 17u National Championship
    2007 East Coast Professional
    2007 AFLAC All American Classic
    2008 WWBA 2008 Grads or 18u National Championship




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