MLB teams were informed a few days ago that Jonathan Gray, a junior pitcher at Oklahoma, tested positive for the banned stimulant Adderall during his pre-Draft drug screening, according to multiple reports. Sources tell Keith Law that Gray did not have a prescription for the drug, which would have excused the positive test. Gray is considered a consensus top five pick on talent, and is/was under heavy consideration by the Cubs for their number two overall pick.
There is no suspension associated with a draft-eligible player failing a drug screening, though it does subject Gray to increased testing once he becomes a professional. Big leaguers are suspended 25 games for testing positive for a banned stimulant a second time (there is no suspension for a first positive test).
So, yeah. I know what you’re wondering. What’s the fallout here?
As with all complicated and nuanced issues, the right answer is “it depends.”
Does Gray have a known condition that warrants the use of Adderall, and the lack of a prescription is a misunderstanding/procedural goof/etc.? If so, this is no big deal. If not, then it might be a slight issue – Gray reportedly lost a good deal of weight and got into great condition before the 2013 season, where his performance has spiked – but I doubt it drives Gray too far down the boards. The issue is less the “drug” – many players use is under an exemption (prescription) – and more the “judgment.”
Indeed, Law indicates something you may have already suspected: with a positive drug test on his records (albeit one that doesn’t scare teams), Gray’s bonus demands may have to drop slightly. That could make Gray a more attractive draft pick, not a less attractive one, as the selecting team might get a top five talent at a price tag below that level, which allows them to spend more elsewhere in the Draft.
Ultimately, it introduces a new level of uncertainty into the equation as the Cubs make one of their most important draft picks in years. They’ve met with Gray, and they’ve known about this issue for several days now. They’ll have a plan, and they’ll have a good sense of how this issue affects their position on Gray come Thursday.
I suppose the best context we can give this is to imagine that the Cubs selected Gray, and then found out about the positive test. How are we feeling then? I’m probably a little disappointed and a little nervous. And I’d probably research the effects of Adderall on athlete performance like a mad beast. I’d also wonder, if this is no big deal and just a thing that happens, why Gray was the only player who tested positive (again, reportedly).
Does that added anxiety mean the Cubs should now pass on Gray? They’ve got at least two quality options at the top of the Draft already – Mark Appel and Kris Bryant – so it is not as if passing on Gray means their top pick will be a disaster.
Still, if they think the test is no big deal, and believe Gray is the best talent on the board when they pick, maybe this is a non-issue.