Rookies tend to struggle and Josiah Gray is no different. Regardless, he will be just fine.
When Josiah Gray arrived in D.C. as part of a six-player trade with the Dodgers, the rookie had big shoes to fill. Especially when those shoes belonged to three-time Cy Young winner, World Series champion, and future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer. Since 2015, Scherzer was the Nationals ace, but more importantly, the team’s lifeline.
Whenever the Nationals needed a monster outing, Scherzer would deliver and then some, with Game Seven of the 2019 World Series coming to mind. With Scherzer gone and the Nationals in the midst of a full-blown rebuild, the team is looking to Gray to pick up the mantle left behind by number 31.
In his first five starts with the Nats, he did just that. On August 2nd against the Phillies, Gray made his Nationals debut, allowing one earned run across five innings. He also struck out two and walked two.
At first glance, nerves were definitely a factor, but Gray flashed his immense potential. Across his next four starts, he allowed one, three, two, and two runs respectively with 27 strikeouts and only six walks. His curve and slider became the equalizer, generating plenty of swing and miss while keeping opposing batters off-balance.
After dominating through his first five starts, Gray ran into a wall, allowing 17 runs across his last three starts. A major issue was his command, walking 10 batters in his last three starts compared to eight through his first five. In his most recent start against the Pirates, Gray walked six batters,
"“[I was] just thinking too much out there on the mound,. I think a lot of the walks, those at-bats started 1-0, 2-0, 2-1 sometimes, so just getting behind early, having to play catch-up in those at-bats. Obviously, you have to be a little finer when you’re behind in counts, and I got way too behind today. I think I threw 55 percent strikes, something like that — incredibly bad.”"
After Gray’s recent string of bad outings, some fans have been quick to turn on the youngster. Well, don’t. Despite the growing pains, Gray is only 23 and has 48 innings under his belt. His secondary pitches still need some fine-tuning, but he has already flashed what he can do.
In order for him to reach his full potential, besides further developing his pitches and limiting the walks, he needs to keep the ball in the park. Dating back to his time in L.A., he has allowed a whopping 17 homers. This is partly because he keeps hanging pitches over the heart of the plate.
The only way for him to overcome this is to keep pushing forward and earn as much experience as possible. It is way to early get worried.