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Why the Jon Gray narrative is all wrong

When comparing him to his peers, the story of Jon Gray's minor league career is not as it seems.

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:

Year Pick Player Team
2010 5 Drew Pomeranz Indians
2010 7 Matt Harvey Mets
2011 1 Gerrit Cole Pirates
2011 2 Danny Hultzen Mariners
2011 3 Trevor Bauer Diamondbacks
2012 4 Kevin Gausman Orioles
2012 5 Kyle Zimmer Royals
2012 8 Mark Appel Pirates Did not sign
2012 9 Andrew Heaney Marlins
2013 1 Mark Appel Astros
2013 3 Jon Gray Rockies
2014 3 Carlos Rodon White Sox
2014 7 Aaron Nola Phillies
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.