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2013 MLB Draft: Why the Astros should take Jonathan Gray at 1-1

There's a reason the big guy from Oklahoma has drawn so much interest. He's a legitimate ace in the making.


That's the draft term for a guy who shoots to the top of boards and rankings in a single year. Sometimes, it's as small a time frame as a few months leading up to the draft.

That's what Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray had this year, a lot of helium. (I'd make an Adderall joke here, but it'd probably be in poor taste). Gray possesses everything you'd want in a top of the rotation pitcher. He's got a big build capable of throwing a ton of innings. He's got an outstanding fastball that touches 100 even late into games. Oh, and he's also got a killer secondary pitch in his slider that should be his strikeout pitch in the pros.

So, why isn't he getting more love before this draft?

There are two main stumbling blocks to his candidacy that take some of the luster off Gray. First, he's only done it for one season. That's a big warning sign to some people. However, what if he just matured a little more slowly than some pitchers? Just because he hasn't thrown 100 mph since he was in diapers doesn't mean he won't for the next 10 years, right?

Gray took a legitimate step forward this season, but has always had the stuff. Last season, he had similar gaudy strikeout numbers, if not quite as good as he put up in 2013. His ERA was higher, but what can college ERA really tell us?

The other concern is the Adderall test so close to the draft. It's a setback and a red flag for some, as he may have been using it to enhance his concentration on the mound this year, thus leading to better results and an artificial improvement.

However, what if it was a one-time thing? What if he were just studying for finals and forgot he had taken his roommate's medication? Sure, it's a dumb thing, but if we can forgive Jonathan Singleton and start rooting for him again so quickly, can't we let this Jonathan's transgression pass too?

Kids are sometimes immature. They learn from mistakes. I will bet you that Gray has already paid a big price for this one and done some maturing as soon as the news broke. In short, I'm not really worried about that one story when reviewing his credentials.

What I do like is that fastball. Look at the most dominant pitchers in baseball history. They all started with the fastball. Walter Johnson. Nolan Ryan. Roger Clemens. Roy Oswalt. Randy Johnson. Sure, they all had good secondary stuff, too, but it was the fastball that made them special in a hurry.

Gray doesn't have a plus secondary pitch outside of those top two, but do you think people worried about Sandy Koufax's third pitch? His first two were so dominant, they didn't need to. Gray can be the same way. He's got maybe the best fastball in the draft and can use it to mow down hitters at any level.

Plus, if the worst case scenario happens and Gray suffers an injury or stalls in his development (a concern for any pitcher, even the great Mark Appel), he's got the profile to be a lights-out closer in the mold of Billy Wagner or Brad Lidge.

There may be safer picks in the draft, but I'm not sure there is one with more upside than Gray. He can be a dominant force at the top of a rotation, a guy who can completely shut teams down every five days. That's his potential and that's hard to find, which is why the Astros should take him at the top of this draft.