From now until the start of MLB free agency, we will be previewing free agents that the Nationals should target. Next up is Jon Gray.
Coors Field is a hitter’s dream and a pitcher’s nightmare. More times than not when a pitcher leaves Coors, they tend to do better at their new home. Jon Gray, the former number three overall pick in the 2013 draft is no exception. In his seven years with the Rockies, Gray is 53-49, with a 4.59 ERA, 849 strikeouts, and a 3.91 FIP.
Now a free agent, Washington should sign him to a one-year prove-it deal. The Nationals rotation is in dire need of some reinforcements, especially with Stephen Strasburg’s status up in the air and Patrick Corbin coming off the worst season of his career.
The 2019 World Series MVP has undergone season-ending surgery the past two years in a row and at 33, the injuries will only continue to mount. The team hopes he will be back by the start of next season. After posting a 3.25 ERA with 238 strikeouts in 2019, Corbin finished this season last in all of baseball in last in ERA (5.82), FIP (5.41), and losses (16).
In a more pitcher-friendly stadium like Nats Park, Gray has an opportunity to live up to his draft billing. Since entering the league in 2015, his barrel percentage is only 5.4%, good for 28th in the majors. Last year he was 29th in baseball in HR/9 (minimum of 140 IP) with a 1.27. No longer pitching in the high altitude, Gray won’t have the ball randomly flying out of the park haunting him anymore.
He can rack up the strikeouts, finishing 27th in baseball in K/9 (9.48), but suffers from control problems (he finished 7th in baseball in BB/9 (3.50). Gray needs to work on consistently finding the strike zone in order to take the next step.
In Washington, Gray will get the chance to work with pitching coach Jim Hickey who has helped numerous high-profile pitchers over the years. Most notably, Hickey has coached David Price, Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt, Jon Lester, and Max Scherzer. Gray should benefit greatly from his help.