The Rockies optioned right-hander Jon Gray to Triple-A Albuquerque today, as noted as MLB.com’s Thomas Harding (Twitter link) and other reporters. Outfielder Raimel Tapia was promoted in the corresponding move.
Though Gray has struggled this season, the demotion still counts as a surprise on a number of levels. Formerly one of the game’s top prospects, Gray posted solid numbers in 2016 and then took another positive step with an even better performance (3.67 ERA, 9.1 K/9, 3.73 K/BB) over 110 1/3 innings in an injury-shortened 2017.
The hope in Colorado was that Gray would further establish himself as the front-of-the-rotation arm that the franchise has long sought after, though instead, Gray ran into some rough waters. Over 92 innings, Gray leads the league in both hits and earned runs allowed, to go along with an ugly 5.77 ERA. He is allowing more hard contact (34.4%) than in either of the past two seasons, while his home run rate is a career-high 15.5%. One can’t blame Coors Field for Gray’s issue, as his home and road ERAs are basically identical.
These numbers notwithstanding, there is a lot more evidence that Gray’s 5.77 ERA is the product of terrible luck. Looking at his ERA predictors (3.07 FIP, 2.77 xFIP, 3.14 SIERA), one would think that Gray was enjoying a breakout season. He owns a 11.6 K/9 and a 4.1 K/BB rate, and while his hard contact percentage is up, the quality of that contact translates to only a .301 xwOBA. His xOBA is .342, however, and Gray has been similarly snake-bitten by a whopping .386 BABIP as well as a low 63.1% strand rate.
The Rockies are hoping Gray will be back sometime in July, as MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi tweets that the “team views this as a reset” in the midst of what surely must be a frustrating stretch for the 26-year-old. Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman are the likeliest Triple-A candidates to fill Gray’s place in the short term, with rookies Sam Howard and Harrison Musgrave also longer shot options.