Is Sonny Gray Being Overlooked in Fantasy Baseball?
One of the New York Yankees' big trade deadline acquisitions during the 2017 season was Sonny Gray. He was brought into the mix to not only solidify the Bronx Bombers' rotation for their ensuing playoff run,but also for the next few years since he's under team control until 2020. Going from the Oakland Athletics to New York had to be exciting for the right-hander, but it was also exciting for his fantasy baseball owners.
Last year an important one for Gray on an individual level. The 2016 season was a struggle, as he managed to post just a 5.63 ERA, 4.67 FIP, and an 18.2% strikeout rate (all career-worst marks) in 22 starts. Thankfully, he bounced back the following campaign and put together a performance we're used to seeing from him.
A return to form plus being on a team like the Yankees should make him a very valuable fantasy starter, especially considering he's currently getting taken as the 69th pitcher overall in drafts. His average draft position (ADP) is 258.21, per National Fantasy Baseball Championship statistics.
That seems a little low when looking at his past track record and current situation.
A Reliable Starter
Outside of the aforementioned 2016 season, Gray has been a very reliable starting pitcher since landing in the majors. The chart below shows just how consistent he's been across various statistics when we take out that one bad year, including an abbreviated rookie campaign.
|Year||ERA/ERA-||FIP||Strikeout Rate||Walk Rate||Innings Pitched|
He has been steadily above average in these four seasons, especially when using metrics like ERA and FIP. Gray will not rack up strikeouts at an elite rates(the league-average strikeout rate from 2013-2017 has varied between 19.9% and 21.6%), but he also limits walks, so his WHIP has been above average throughout the time period we're looking at above.
An important piece of the puzzle for any fantasy baseball owner's starting rotation is finding hurlers they can depend on to consistently take the mound. Gray has has done that for the most part when looking at his innings workload, as well. The one portion of his career that was hampered by injury was 2016 (where he was placed on the disabled list twice) and the beginning of 2017 (where a shoulder sprain delayed his debut until May).
Despite the late start last year, he showed no ill effects of his injury, and the reputation he built between 2014 and 2015 prove he can be a workhorse.
A Yankees Beneficiary
While Gray is a draftable pitcher on his own right -- and was such during his time with the Athletics -- him being on the Yankees increases his value, especially in leagues that count pitcher wins. New York's offense and bullpen are primed to be some of the best baseball has to offer, which means the entire starting staff will benefit. Even in games when he gives up quite a few runs, the offense should give up a big enough cushion to overcome that. The bullpen being as talented as it is will also likely lead to fewer blown leads, allowing Gray to record more wins.
Pitcher wins are a fluky and unreliable statistic, but you can take advantage of them by focusing on pitchers with good teams. That's exactly the situation Gray is in, so when the time comes in your draft, it's OK to reach for him a little bit over other hurlers that won't find themselves in as good of a situation, like Jharel Cotton (231.76 ADP), Ian Kennedy (242.05), or Ivan Nova (255.15).
Outside of an injury-riddled 2016, Gray has always been a good pitcher. He won't provide elite peripherals, but he's still very productive. When packaging his ability with the elite team he's now on, it should lead great things in 2018.