2022 Pod Projections: Josiah Gray

The 2022 Pod Projections are now available and include over 550 player forecasts! As usual in my Pod Projection posts, I’ll dive into my projection methodology (detailed in Projecting X 2.0) by sharing my process on several hitters and pitchers.

2022 Pod Projection Index
Wander Franco
Logan Webb
Ketel Marte

Josiah Gray was most recently ranked as our 17th best overall prospect and made his debut last year with the Dodgers. He was then included in a blockbuster trade that sent him to the Nationals where he made 12 starts. Unfortunately, his debut didn’t go very well, as he posted a 5.48 ERA/4.60 SIERA, driven by professional worst strikeout and walk rates, to go along with an extreme fly ball rate. The good news is that his fastball did average 94.5 MPH and he generated a near-elite 14.1% SwStk%.

Fantasy owners aren’t exactly excited about him in 2022. He has been picked 200 at the earliest in NFBC drafts this month, while going as late as 324th overall. That’s prime sleeper territory! Essentially, he’s being treated as a lottery ticket who will either stick on rosters after a good first two starts, or get jettisoned to the free agent pool after a poor first start or two.

Let’s dive into the projections to find out what we can expect this season.

Games Started | IP: 24 | 125

Right now, Gray appears to slot in third in the Nationals rotation, which might mean the 24 games started projection is a bit too low, but it’s conservative given his lack of history and risk of getting demoted due to poor performance again. His 125 inning forecast implies 5.2 innings per start, which is slightly above last season when he went 5.1 innings/start. It’s possible that the NL DH will dramatically increase NL starting pitcher’s IP/start, but we’ll have to wait to find out.

K%: 24.1%

Gray has pitched on multiple levels during his minor league career, and all of his stints have been over relatively small sample sizes. His strikeout rates have bounced around from a low of 25.5% to as high as 38.6%. His SwStk% marks have been pretty impressive most of the time, usually finishing in the mid-to-high teens. He posted an impressive 14.1% SwStk% mark in the Majors, driven by elite curveball and slider marks above 20%. Clearly, he has the repertoire to succeed, and at least during his debut, the effectiveness of his repertoire carried over from the minors.

While his MLB debut strikeout rate of 24.8% was perfectly solid, his xK% was actually even higher at 26.5%. Yet, I’m usually conservative with young pitchers so I’m projecting some regression from both his actual and xK% marks. The only pause is his mediocre pitch grades, which don’t scream big strikeout pitcher.

BB%: 8.8%

There’s no doubting that Gray’s control was disappointing during his debut. His xBB% suggests there wasn’t much bad luck involved and he legitimately displayed below average skills. However, he’s shown much better in the minors and we often see young pitchers struggle with their control early on before they adjust and become more comfortable with the higher level of competition. I am trusting his minor league history and his 50/60 Command grade for the forecasted improvement.

GB%/LD%/FB%: 35% / 20% / 45%

Out of all starting pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched, Gray’s FB% ranked second highest. He has always been a fly ball pitcher, but in his two longest minor league stints in 2019, he was in the mid-40% range, rather than above 50% like he was during 2021. Just like any other metric, it’s difficult to remain on either end of the extremes, so I’m projecting some fly balls turn into grounders and line drives.

HR/FB%: 13.5%

Gray suffered a bout of gopheritis last year, allowing an inflated 18.6% HR/FB rate. His xHR/FB rate (the pitcher version of my hitter equation) wasn’t as bad at 15.3%, but still worse than average. That said, it was over just 70.2 innings and 102 fly balls and HR/FB rate takes far more than that to be predictive. So I’m assuming regression back to around the league average.

BABIP: .281

While Gray struggled with the long ball, he had no problem suppressing hits on balls in play. Thanks to a ton of fly balls, he posted just a .249 BABIP. However, I’m projecting some more grounders and line drives, so it would be difficult to maintain such a low BABIP. My forecast is a jump closer to league average, but still well below it given his heavy fly ball tendency.

Below is my final projected pitching line, along with the other systems for comparison:

Josiah Gray Projections
Pod 125 8 4.25 1.27 127 9.2 3.3 1.52 24.1% 8.8% 20.0% 35.0% 45.0% 0.281
ZiPS DC 120 5 4.55 1.30 139 10.4 3.5 1.68 0.303
THE BAT 139 8 4.30 1.23 132 8.5 2.9 1.59 22.5% 7.6% 0.281
ATC 139 7 4.74 1.31 137 8.9 3.3 1.63 23.4% 8.6% 0.295
FGDC 129 6 4.82 1.35 138 9.6 3.5 1.73 0.303
Steamer 139 8 5.06 1.39 136 8.9 3.6 1.77 22.4% 9.0% 20.4% 33.4% 46.2% 0.287
Yellow = most optimistic
Red = most pessimistic

My gosh, Steamer is quite bearish on Josiah Gray! It’s the only system projecting an ERA over 5.00, while it’s forecasting the lowest strikeout rate, highest walk rate, and most home runs per nine innings. THE BAT and my forecasts are seemingly out on a bullish island, as the rest are far more pessimistic than we are. I think the most perplexing projection is ZiPS’ .303 BABIP. Given Gray’s high fly ball rate, I don’t see how a system could end up with that high a projection. Unless it’s forecasting the Nationals outfield defense to be one of the worst in baseball and for Gray to allow far fewer fly balls, I just don’t get it.

The bottom line is that it’s clear most of the systems are not a fan of Gray’s this year. That means he could be available late in your snake draft or during dollar days in your auction. He’s exactly the type of starting pitcher I love to collect for cheap to give me several breakout lottery tickets.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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4 months ago

I’m definitely interested in watching his first few starts.