Jonathan Gray reportedly tested positive for a banned (sans prescription, anyway) stimulant on the eve of the draft, and as a result I think becomes the overwhelmingly most logical pick for the Astros at No. 1 over all.
That is not sarcasm. Somehow this CBA has twisted things to that degree.
Houston, I suspect, is going to have every advantage in those negotiations. Any credible threat that Gray would return to college evaporated when that drug test hit daylight. Imagine what would happen if Gray returns to school, passes every drug test with flying colors, and for some reason gains five pounds and loses 1 MPH off his fastball. Questions would be raised, fairly or otherwise, regarding the validity of his 2013 campaign. All the skepticism about fast risers and players who jump up the draft boards over the span of a single season would come back tenfold with the added multiplier of suspicions of chemical enhancement. I think we are too close to the greatest excesses of the steroid era to look at any possible-PED accusation towards a player of this caliber with any degree of rationality. Not as a culture, anyway.
Gray can’t risk it. Returning for his senior season was a gamble anyway, and not a very smart one. I think this just takes that choice away completely. There is almost no upside in his returning to school. He just about has to sign, and no matter how much his agent spins against that line of reasoning in the coming days, nothing negates that a return to school is a bad risk. And every team in baseball will know it.
Including Houston. Suddenly Houston is in a position to grab the highest ceiling pitcher in the draft, the guy with easily the best pitch in the draft, and have the leverage to sign him for well under slot. How far under? I now suspect he’ll settle for No. 3 or No. 4 pick money and save the Astros as much as $3 million. It will take a very good agent for him to land at slot now; I just don’t see it happening.
And if the Astros, for some completely inexplicable reason, decide to pass on this lucrative windfall, the Cubs should give serious thought to taking Gray themselves.
I still prefer Bryant, but my reasons for that have not changed in the slightest as a result of this failed test. In fact, I can’t factor the failed test into my rankings in any meaningful way at all. There is just too much we don’t know. On questions of character we will have to trust the scouts, and on questions of health we will have to trust the training staff.
But we would have done that anyway. Fundamentally, nothing has changed. We are unlikely to know enough by Thursday night to know much of anything other than that this failed test exists. That means we have to consider Gray based on what we do know. Great arm. Great fastball. Highest upside of any pitcher in the draft. Just took a big hit to his signing bonus leverage.
He’s No. 2 on my board behind Bryant. But if I knew for certain that the Cubs could save a million or two on the signing bonus by taking Gray, I would be very tempted to flip those two.
[Brett: This is some seriously well-thought-out stuff, Luke, and I applaud your insight. I’d still take Appel.]
Scores From Yesterday
Iowa – A five run burst in the 13th inning doomed the Cubs to a 10-5 loss.
Tennessee – The Smokies made it to 30 wins with a doubleheader sweep. Game One ended with a 2-0 win, and the final in Game Two was 7-1.
Daytona – A Bradenton rally in the 8th cost the Cubs the game. They lost 5-3.
Kane County – The Cougars allowed big rallies in the 6th and 7th as they lost 10-4.
Performances of Note
- [Iowa] Someone woke up Brett Jackson. He finished 4 for 6 with his fourth home run.
- [Iowa] Steve Clevenger doubled home three in his rehab start behind the plate.
- [Iowa] Hisanori Takahashi tossed three great innings of relief for the Cubs. He allowed a single hit while striking out five.
- [Tennessee] Kyle Hendricks does it again. 7 IP, 7 H, 7 K, and he pitched the shutout.
- [Tennessee] Christian Villanueva stayed warm with a triple in Game One. He got in Game Two with a 2 for 4 game that included his 5th home run.
- [Tennessee] Ronald Torreyes had a pretty good game himself. His 3 for 3 Game Two included a double.
- [Daytona] Catcher Yaniel Cabezas finished 2 for 3 with both hits being of the double variety.
- [Daytona] Jorge Soler finished the day with two errors (giving him three for the year). That is very unusual for him.
- [Kane County] Dillon Maples struck out 7 over 5 innings while walking 3. This might have been his best start of the season.
- [Kane County] Reggie Golden launched his first home run as part of a two hit game.
- [Kane County] Gioskar Amaya and Rock Shoulders also both enjoyed two hit games.
- I’m not sure Golden’s home run was as impressive as Vogelbach’s the day before, but it was still pretty impressive. Once again, BN regular and Shadows of Wrigley founder TC brings us a great video of the blast.
- BN’er Joel was at a recent Iowa Cubs game, and passes on a great video of Yoanner Negrin making a batter look silly. Joel also noted that, unlike the other Iowa players, Ian Stewart’s batting helmet bears the Cubs’ “C,” rather than the Iowa logo.