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Coming Soon to A Stadium Near You: Sonny Gray, RHP, Oakland Athletics

I had the opportunity to see Sacramento righty Sonny Gray on Thursday night. What did I see, and when could he arrive in Oakland?

Sonny Gray, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Sonny Gray, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Jason Hunt, Fake Teams

Throughout the minor league season, I will be writing about a prospect every Monday who has reached the AA level or higher that could be on your fantasy roster by season's end, and what you should know about them. I was able to see today's prospect last week in his start against Oklahoma City, and I definitely think he will be in Oakland before the end of the season. Let's take a look at what he could be for your fantasy team in the long term.

The Basics

Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 200 lbs.
On 40-man Roster: No
Age as of 5/20/13: 23

His History

Gray was drafted out of a Tennessee high school by the Cubs with a 27th round pick in 2008, as he fell due to signability concerns coupled with an ankle injury his senior year. He attended Vanderbilt university, where he went 27-10 with a 3.18 ERA, 294 IP, 317 strikeouts and 119 walks over his three seasons on campus. The A's took him with the 18th overall pick in the 2011 draft, and signed him with a bonus of just over $1.5 million.

Gray signed early enough to get six starts as a professional in 2011, split between rookie ball (1) and AA (5). In 22 innings pitched that year, he struck out 18, walked six, and allowed 15 hits. He returned to AA for the 2012 season, making 26 starts in Midland before receiving a promotion to AAA Sacramento to end his year. Combined he threw 152 innings, but struck out just 98, walked 58 and posted an excellent GO/AO rate of 1.62. So far in 2013, Gray has 38 strikeouts against 19 walks in 43.2 innings pitched, but with a 1.53 GO/AO rate again.

The Scouting Report - Scouting reports are gathered from other internet sources and written reports, unless otherwise noted.

Gray features a fastball which sits in the mid-90s with the potential to touch 97 at times. The pitch can have a lot of movement at times, but it sounds like his height (and the resulting difficulties getting a good angle to the plate) can work against him at times. He also features a curveball which is considered plus right now, along with a changeup which still needs some work. There are concerns about his size, both in terms of his ability to get good downward plane and holding up over a 200+ inning workload. He is considered to have a #2/#3 starter ceiling, but if he doesn't reach that it is more likely he ends up as a power reliever in the bullpen as his floor.

I saw Gray last Thursday, as he got hit around a bit by Oklahoma City. You can find the video I shot of Gray below. He seemed very hittable at times, although his control was a bit better as he walked just two in his 6 2/3 innings in that start. That control looks like it will be the key to his success, as he has not shown the ability in the minors to consistently keep his walk totals down enough.

What's Keeping Him From Contributing Now?

Gray isn't on the 40-man roster, but as of Sunday morning there was an open roster spot on the 40. However, there isn't really an opening likely in the Majors for Gray to take unless someone else gets hurt or Dan Straily struggles badly in his next few starts. Add in the concerns about his control, and you can see the A's leaving Gray in AAA for most of the season.

When Could He Arrive?

Gray seems likely to be up at some point in the season, most likely as a September call up. There will be a rotation spot up for grabs in 2014 with Bartolo Colon's contract expiring after this season, but that seems more likely to be up for competition with Dan Straily IF Brett Anderson and the rest of the existing starting pitchers are healthy to start the year.

What Could He Do For Fantasy Owners Once He Gets There?

It's really hard to judge what Gray will be in the Majors. He could be a strikeout per inning pitcher with solid but not spectacular ratios. He could end up working in the back end of the bullpen as a shutdown reliever, which will still have value but substantially less if he doesn't end up as the closer in the long-term. Realistically, I think you're looking at a pitcher who will be ownable in all leagues in part due to his home park, but serve as a back end of the fantasy rotation starting pitcher due to the WHIP risk related to the walks. I could see a line of 3.85-4.00 ERA, 1.25-1.30 WHIP, and around 120 strikeouts in a 150 inning span.

Baseball America ($)
Baseball Prospectus
Baseball Reference
Eyewitness Accounts