There is only one Colorado Rockies starting pitcher worth drafting this fantasy baseball draft season: de facto ace Jon Gray. Gray did not post the best ERA and WHIP last year (4.61 and 1.26), but his strikeout and walk rates were great. His strikeout rate and walk rate already got him a slot in my breakout pitchers column. I wasn’t too high on him then, mostly due to the Coors Field issue.
What, then, comes of Jon Gray in 2017? Currently, Gray is going 191 overall by FantasyPros.com ADP (the end of the 15th round). He presents a mid-round pick in a twelve-team league as the 75th starting pitcher off the board. At this price, Gray is a great investment because he’s a small investment.
After a rocky first 8.2 innings to start 2016 (pun intended), Gray settled into a groove. He posted 101 innings of 3.30 ERA from May through July. Seemingly as soon as the calendar turned over to August, however, Gray started to fall apart, offering up a 6.21 ERA in June and a 5.52 ERA in September & October. The easy explanation for this cratering is fatigue. It was his first full season in the majors, and his first time exceeding 155 innings in his career.
It could also be that Gray was exceedingly prone to blowups last season; he had seven starts of 5+ earned runs. However, he paired that with sixteen starts of two or fewer earned runs. I believe in the peripherals (exceedingly high strikeout rate and low walk rate), but I also believe in park factors. Coors chews pitchers up and spits them out. Ironically, he did worse away from home than at home last season, but those peripherals are just too tasty to ignore.
Gray’s 3.60 FIP (a full run lower than his ERA) indicates that his ERA, and not his peripherals, was the outlier. At his ADP, betting on Jon Gray in fantasy baseball is a bet that he can overcome Coors Field. There are years of data that shows that Coors Field cannot be defeated, but I feel good about Gray slaying the demon. His ERA was due to a handful of fatigued starts that had an exceptionally terrible outcome. More often than not last season, Gray returned a positive result when you started him. At more than a strikeout per inning and minimal walks, Gray is worth a stash to see if he can perform up to his 2016 peripherals.