Clearly, We Like Sonny Gray a Lot

Sonny Gray is littered across the RotoGraphs bold prediction posts, so I felt obligated to break Gray down and elaborate on why I and most of the team feel so confident in Gray this season.

Starting with what he did last year, it’s easy to see why we are quite fond of Oakland’s budding ace. He had a ground ball rate over 50%, his ERA/FIP/xFIP were all under 3.00, he struckout more than a batter per nine, and he was able to mix a very solid fastball with a devastating curveball which allows him to keep things relatively simple.
One slight against Gray is his size, standing under six feet is not usually too confidence inspiring when drafting a pitcher who you are hoping is a high strikeout guy. Both ZiPS and Steamer have his strikeouts dropping closer to seven or eight batters per nine rather than his high total in his 12 starts last season. I simply use strikeout per nine there knowing it isn’t the best stat, but it’s easy to use in this scenario.

It should be noted that overall, neither ZiPS nor Steamer love Gray. The confidence we have in him is essentially all of our own doing without any of the backing of projection systems. With that said, where I have been able to draft Gray has made me extremely confident in the upside available for the risk taken. I like his odds of keeping a high ground ball rate and high strikeout rate, but even if one declines he still has the other which should allow him to remain productive even if he regresses as the projection systems suspect.

I have Gray as a top five Cy Young candidate this year, as I just love his overall situation outside of the great stuff he has. Pitching in that ballpark with lackluster offenses throughout the division (Angels and Rangers are obviously not lackluster, but the injuries in Texas help) and a solid defense behind him should allow him to keep his ERA down and amass wins at a high clip. That’s what fantasy baseball is all about. We can find the best strikeout guys and players that are out producing their peripherals, but if they are not producing in the areas that matter most in fantasy they aren’t going to pay the dividends we want them to in the long run.

Additionally, there is a ton of keeper value in where Gray can be acquired this season, which varies depending on the league settings and quality of the league. I was able to get in him one keeper league and missed out on him barely in another, winding up with Michael Wacha and Danny Salazar instead. Of the three, I like Gray the most and think he will not only have the best season but the best career. With that expectation, I am obviously glad that I have him in at least one long term league, where I am hopeful he outplays his draft spot and can be on my roster for a number of years. It is not often that you can get a player with the upside of Gray after somewhat of a breakout for the price he was going for in drafts. If your league is very active, he can still be had via trade – make an attempt at him and be glad you did so later in the season.

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Ben Duronio writes for Capitol Avenue Club, FanGraphs, and does the Sports Illustrated Power Rankings. Follow Ben on twitter @Ben_Duronio.

19 Responses to “Clearly, We Like Sonny Gray a Lot”

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  1. Bil Bo Baggins says:

    similar to discussion about Stroman, the “under 6 feet” idea, do you not think that because of his size he could eventually be pushed into the Pen? similar to stroman talks?

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  2. Carl Weathers says:

    I want him in my keeper too, but would you trade Bogaerts for him? I have Bogaerts essentially as a bench bat this year (Wright is my 3B). I have Yelich and Billy Hamilton in UTIL spots where Xander can get AB’s in addition to 3B spot when Wright isn’t playing. I will be able to keep as many guys as I want.

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    • Emcee Peepants says:

      I wouldn’t, unless you really need pitching. Bogaerts will have SS eligibility this season and has superstar potential as a keeper especially given how shallow that position is.

      But what do I know, I’m obviously not a big guy. I’m not a Carl Weathers, par example.

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    • majnun says:

      Good lord, in a dynasty format no way do you trade bogaerts for gray

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  3. Emcee Peepants says:

    As a Gray owner, one concern I have is that being the number one starter to the A’s he potentially gets a lot of tough match-ups against other number ones, and therefore less room for error. As in Masterson today and Felix on Saturday. I know the rotations get out of sync later in the season due to off days, but I’m not optimistic for a great first week.

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    • murph3699 says:

      What does Masterson pitching to Oakland batters have to do with way Gray performs?

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      • Robert says:

        It can potentially mean less wins, but it’s pretty meaningless. Everyone’s rotation will be at a different point in a month or so regardless (1 v. 5, etc.).

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      • Grant says:

        You realize that rotations get misaligned right off the bat. Off days, injuries, etc. Opening day starters, don’t uaually go up against aces for more than 1 or 2 starts.

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  4. jdbolick says:

    That 15.2% K-rate in 2012 is presumably what’s influencing the projection systems. 2013 being more recent and including major league exposure obviously gives it much more weight, but the full season of disappointment year before last does give you pause.

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  5. Jon L. says:

    I’m puzzled by the extremely high level of optimism reported here. The Fangraphs spring rankings have him 36th, a far cry from the top 10 or 20, below R.A. Dickey and Julio Teheran, and way below question marks like Masahiro Tanaka and Jeff Samardzija.

    I guess the idea is you’re projecting him to be good, but everyone thinks he has way more upside than most?

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  6. Stephen says:

    “he struckout more than a batter per nine,”

    …Well I should certainly hope so. A K/9 of 1.00 isn’t very good


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  7. Longbeachyo says:

    2 batters… 2 walks. Not a great start.

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  8. elephantman says:

    i am elephantman

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