“He’s making progress,” Washington’s GM Mike Rizzo said of the continued development he saw from Nationals’ starter Josiah Gray early this past season, in the 24-year-old right-hander’s second run with the club after he was acquired from the Dodgers in the deadline deal which sent both Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to LA in late July of 2021.
“We see a little bit of progress each time he goes out there,” Rizzo added. “He kind of does something that we go over in the meetings, he’s a student of the game, and he’s making good, slow progress, and we feel that he [is] going to be [one of] the lynchpin[s] of our rotation in years to come.”
Gray, who’ll turn 25 this December 21st, finished the year with a 5.02 ERA, a 5.86 FIP, 66 walks, 154 Ks, a league-leading 38 HRs allowed, and a .239/.324/.489 line against in 28 starts and 148 2⁄3 IP overall.
In a season-ending interview, Rizzo told reporters what he saw from Gray in terms of his development over the course of the 2022 campaign.
Josiah Gray's 9th and 10th Ks.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 16, 2022
And is fired up. Love it! pic.twitter.com/yCNF6fjzbG
“I thought he’s had a really productive year for himself as far as his progression as a guy who never pitched anywhere near 100 innings before and got well past that,” Rizzo explained.
“Took the ball every five days without really a hiccup all season,” Rizzo said, taking liberties with both phrases (“every five days” and “without really a hiccup”), “… and showed a propensity to miss bats and had stretches of dominance. Like a lot of young players, and young pitchers, consistency is the name of the game here. It’s hard to get to the big leagues. It’s even harder to stay in the big leagues, and it’s really difficult to excel in the big leagues, and I think that’s his next progression, but I like what I see every five days. He takes the ball, he’s hungry for the ball, he’s a competitor and a great athlete on the mound, I think he’s got a high ceiling and I was really encouraged how he finished the season.”
As the Nationals noted in their Season in Review, Gray led the Nationals’ pitchers this season with 154 strikeouts, and he, “… had three of Washington’s four 10+ strikeout games,” on the year.
In addition, he, “[r]anked 9th in the National League ([minimum] 135.0 IP) with 9.32 SO/9.0 IP,” he, ‘... [s]truck out a career-high 11 batters on July 6 at PHI,” and while, Gray did have his share of rough outings, he, “[a]llowed one or fewer ER in 9 of 28 starts.”
Gray threw 39.2% four-seam fastballs on the season, giving up 24 of his 38 HRs allowed on the pitch, on which opposing hitters had a .304 AVG, and he mixed in a slider (29.5%, .189 BAA), curveball (24.8%, .185 BAA), sinker (3.7%, .333 BAA), and changeup (2.8%, .600 BAA).
Josiah Gray, Knee-Buckling 84mph Curveball. pic.twitter.com/TYwi8lngvH— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 23, 2022
Following a game against the LA Dodgers, his former team, in late May, which saw Gray give up five hits (three of them home runs), three walks, and seven earned runs in three innings, in which he threw 80 pitches at home in the nation’s capital, Nats’ manager Davey Martinez talked about a persistent mechanical issue which sometimes leads to arm-side misses from the starter, on some of which he allowed home runs.
“A lot of arm-side misses, couldn’t locate his fastball at all, breaking balls, some were sharp, some weren’t,” Martinez told reporters.
Asked about a potential fix they could implement to solve some of those issues, Martinez said they identified what they saw as a problem, but suggested it would take some long-term work to change it.
“We always talk about with him — he has a funky landing with his front foot, and that’s not going to change overnight,” the manager said, “... but when he stays down and using his legs, and drives, he corrects a lot of it.
“Today, he was just open, arm came out away from his body, and you get all that run.”
Is the “funky landing with his front foot” something the club addressed in-season? Work for Gray this winter? Will the Nationals’ soon-to-turn-25-year-old starter find ways to keep the ball in the yard going forward? What did you make of Gray’s first full season in the majors? What other areas do you want to see him work to address this winter?