With the Rockies set to call up top pitching prospect Jon Gray for his major league debut, the countdown begins to the claims that the Rockies "rushed" him to the big leagues, the first of which will surely come at the first sign of trouble in Gray's Rockies career.
So the question is, before we see results, did the Rockies rush Gray to the majors? Now, this is a hard thing to determine, as these are best taken on a case-by-case basis. However, the best way to objectively evaluate whether Gray was rushed would be to compare him to his peers, those being college pitchers drafted as top 10 overall picks in the 2010s, of which there have been 13, not counting the 2015 draft class.
Here is the list:
|2012||8||Mark Appel||Pirates||Did not sign|
|2014||3||Carlos Rodon||White Sox|
|2014||9||Jeff Hoffman||Blue Jays|
Gray will be the ninth member of the group to make his major league debut. Of the four players that have not debuted, only the Astros' Mark Appel, selected two picks before Gray, and the Royals' Kyle Zimmer have not suffered a major injury. Seattle's Danny Hultzen missed all of 2013 and 2014 with a pair of shoulder injuries and Gray's future teammate Jeff Hoffman, who came to the Rockies in the Troy Tulowitzki trade last week, did not make his professional debut until this May after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014.
There is also the case of Zimmer, whom the Royals made the No. 5 overall pick in 2012. Zimmer was only converted to pitching full time during his sophomore year of college and, despite playing three seasons at the University of San Francisco, was still three months shy of his 21st birthday when he was drafted. He has also been converted to a relief role in 2015.
Setting aside Zimmer, Appel, Hultzen and Hoffman, the easiest way to compare Gray's development time in relation to his peers is simply the calendar. How long did they go between being drafted and their major league debut?
Here is how that breaks down:
|Player||Date Drafted||MLB Debut||Days between|
|Drew Pomeranz||June 7, 2010||Sept. 11, 2011||461|
|Matt Harvey||June 7, 2010||July 26, 2012||780|
|Gerrit Cole||June 6, 2011||June 11, 2013||736|
|Trevor Bauer||June 6, 2011||June 28, 2012||388|
|Kevin Gausman||June 4, 2012||May 23, 2013||353|
|Andrew Heaney||June 4, 2012||June 19, 2014||745|
|Jon Gray||June 6, 2013||Aug. 4, 2015||789|
|Carlos Rodon||June 5, 2014||April 21, 2015||320|
|Aaron Nola||June 5, 2014||July 21, 2015||411|
As you can see, of the pitchers who have debuted, Gray had the longest time in the minors of any of them at 789 days, nine days longer than Mets All-Star Matt Harvey.
There is, however, a sign that keeping Gray in the minors as long as the Rockies have was a good idea. Gray is the fourth pitcher on the list to go more than two years between being drafted and his major league debut and the other three -- Harvey, the Pirates' Gerrit Cole and the Angels' Andrew Heaney -- are currently key parts of the rotations of current playoff contenders. In addition, two of them -- Harvey and Cole -- have been All-Stars.
Another way to judge how patient teams were with their prized pitchers would be to look at the number of starts and innings pitched they had in the minors prior to their debut.
Here is a look at those numbers, and note they only count time in the minors before a pitcher's major league debut and not any subsequent appearances in the minors:
|Player||Date Drafted||MLB Debut||GS||IP|
|Drew Pomeranz||June 7, 2010||Sept. 11, 2011||20||101|
|Matt Harvey||June 7, 2010||July 26, 2012||46||245⅔|
|Gerrit Cole||June 6, 2011||June 11, 2013||38||200|
|Danny Hultzen||June 6, 2011||N/A||35||167⅔|
|Trevor Bauer||June 6, 2011||June 28, 2012||23||118⅔|
|Kevin Gausman||June 4, 2012||May 23, 2013||13||61⅓|
|Kyle Zimmer||June 4, 2012||N/A||36 (54 GP)||185|
|Andrew Heaney||June 4, 2012||June 19, 2014||36 (38 GP)||199|
|Mark Appel||June 6, 2013||N/A||47 (48 GP)||217|
|Jon Gray||June 6, 2013||Aug. 4, 2015||53 (54 GP)||276|
|Carlos Rodon||June 5, 2014||April 21, 2015||8 (11 GP)||34⅓|
|Aaron Nola||June 5, 2014||July 21, 2015||29 (30 GP)||164⅔|
|Jeff Hoffman||June 5, 2014||N/A||14||72⅔|
When you look at games and innings, Gray also has the longest minor league tenure of the group, with six more starts than Appel and 30⅓ innings more than Harvey before his big league debut. But again, the pitchers that saw more time in the minors prior to their debut, Harvey and Cole among them, have seen the most major league success to date. The Rockies were, again, even more patient with Gray than the Mets and Pirates were with their future All-Star right-handers.
So the answer is no, the Rockies absolutely did not rush Gray to the major leagues. Quite the contrary, they were actually extremely patient with him in contrast to his peers and judging from the results of those peers to date, erring on the side of caution with Gray may have been the right idea for his future.