We continue our annual look at amateur talents the Baltimore Orioles could (should) be targeting in the 1st Round and beyond. Over the next two weeks we will bear down on the eight potential 1st Round targets listed below, followed by a week dedicated to the 2nd - 5th Rounds and finally the 6th - 10th Rounds. As a reminder, the draft coverage here will focus on Baltimore. More in-depth coverage, including rankings, scouting reports, videos and more can be found over at http://www.diamondscapescouting.com/.
Potential targets at 1:4
Anthony Rendon / 3b / Rice Univ.
Gerrit Cole / rhp / UCLA
Bubba Starling / of/rhp / Gardner Edgerton HS (Gardner, Kan.)
Sonny Gray / rhp / Vanderbilt Univ.
Danny Hultzen / lhp / Univ. of Virginia
Dylan Bundy / rhp / Owasso HS (Owasso, Okla.)
Taylor Jungmann / rhp / Univ. of Texas
Jed Bradley / lhp / Georgia Tech
*Every player discussed in the Depot Draft Preview has been scouted by Nick J. Faleris, either through his efforts at DiamondScape Scouting or as part of his duties as an Associate Scout in the Midwest Region for a National League organization.
Sonny Gray (rhp, Vanderbilt Univ.)
Age at Draft: 21y7m
Games Scouted: 1 (in person); 6 (video)
Grades - Now (Future):
Motion: 45/50 (50/55)
Fastball: 60/65 (65/70)
Curveball: 60/65 (65/70)
Change: 45 (55/60)
Slider: 45 (50/55)
Control: 45/50 (55/60)
Command: 45 (50/55)
Feel: 55 (60)
Overall Future Potential: 59/62
*Notes on Grades: The Scouting Scale works from 20-80, with 50 being Major League Average. The scale operates loosely on a bell curve, so the further you move from 50 the fewer grades you'll find among ML players (e.g. Aroldis Chapman's fastball, Ichiro Suzuki's arm strength, Adam Dunn's power and Albert Pujols' hit tool would all be 80 grade). A 60 grade is sometimes referred to as plus and a 70 grade is sometimes referred to as plus-plus.
A bit undersized w/strong, athletic build. Strong upper-body, broad up top tapered to medium waist. Well put together, durable. Athletic actions.
Gray throws with some effort, falling off slightly to the first base side. He keeps a good pace with solid but sometimes inconsistent timing, utilizing an over-the-head wind-up and slight glove-raise entering his leg kick. At his best he gets into a rhythm where his hand break is fairly consistent. At times, he can speed up his motion just slightly, causing late hand break and forcing his arm to play catch-up. His medium arm circle comes with very good acceleration as he starts his drive home, and his release is generally consistent across his fastball and curve when he maintains his timing. The arm action is very easy, but there is explosive effort in his drive to home, resulting in some slight fall-off in his finish, and heavier fall-off when his timing is off. His arm angle is a true three-quarters slot and he maximizes his reach with a strong stride. Even with some effort, his head is fairly steady and he does a good job staying on target with his stride.
Fastball - Gray has big velocity, regularly sitting 94-96 mph and touching as high as 97/98 mph when he reaches back for it. There is good armside life on the pitch and when on he can fill-up the strikezone from black-to-black. Most impressive is his ability to hold that velocity deep into starts, and it isn't uncommon for him to hit his peak velocity for a start in the 7th or 8th inning.
Curve - Gray's curve is perhaps the best in the class, with hard downer action on the power bender. He is low- to mid-80s with the pitch and gets consistent shape and bite. It's a second potential plus-plus offering, along with his fastball, and is lethal as both a freeze pitch and as a bury pitch.
Change-up - Gray doesn't use his change-up much, but it flashes above average as a straight offering with some late dive. It's effectiveness is predicated upon arm speed deception, and while it may not be a true and consistent out pitch yet, the Vandy ace has shown some feel for it. He generally throws it mid-80s.
Slider - Gray has fooled around with a mid-80s slider, but it is still inconsistent and not often utilized. He has the general feel for his pitches that should allow him to grow it into an average or better pitch down the line, and he could even modify his grip and release at some point to go to more of a late-break cutter if it fits better in his arsenal.
Gray's sub-6-foot stature will turn off some, but he has shown through the last two springs as a starter and the last two summer with Team USA that he can maintain velocity late into starts and late into the summer. The durability is certainly there for Gray to start as a pro, and his arm strength is right there with the top arms in the draft class. Two potential issues related to his height are pitch trajectory and extension, as he doesn't get downhill as well as other top arms and his lesser reach gives an extra fraction of a second for hitters to pick up the ball. The former is addressed by the quality of his offerings, with the life on the fastball making it difficult to square, even on a flatter plane. His curve changes the hitter's eye-level, and once the change-up is more regularly incorporated pro hitters will have trouble sitting any one pitch. He negates the ill effects of shorter reach by showing good explosive extension in his stride and pumping plus to plus-plus velocity. Gray has one of the top three two-pitch combos in the class, and has an argument for the top fastball/breaking ball pairing. His size may drop him on some boards, but if he makes it out of the top five overall he'll provide incredible value to a lucky team. Probability is high, considering his fallback is as a potentially elite closer with two plus-plus pitches and long track record of big stuff and good production.
Projected position: #1/#2 starter on tier one team; shutdown closer fallback
Suggested draft slot: Top five overall
This scouting report originally published by the author here.