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Drew Gray Should Be On Your Radar

Part of the joy of being a baseball fan is seeing the organization you root for develop players into a winning core. However, not all of us have the time to watch the various levels of Minor League Baseball with the shrewdness that a scouting department can. For those of us who have an obsession with the sport, we often find ourselves drawn to a handful of prospects not just within our favorite team, but around professional baseball as well. I’m here to introduce you to the next player you’ll add to your list of players to watch in 2024.

Drew Gray was a third-round selection by the Chicago Cubs back in 2021. Signed for well-above slot value, he was lured away from an original commitment to Arkansas, as scouts saw a left-handed starter with multiple offerings capable of being developed into plus pitches as he continued to add to his frame and refine his command. After missing 2022 due to a Tommy John procedure, he displayed flashes of that immense talent at the Cubs Single-A affiliate, Myrtle Beach, in 2023. This culminated in being awarded the Carolina League Pitcher of the Month to close out the season last September.

Due to that string of success, he was told he would be starting the year at High-A in South Bend, and got the nod for the Opening Day start a couple of weeks ago. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance to see the progress he’s made up to this point and got to discuss with him afterward how he feels about this season and his next steps.

Carson Melinder: Talk me through when you found out not only you were starting at High-A, but that you were getting the ball on Opening Day.

Drew Gray: “It was basically the Friday before we left the Spring Training Complex when they posted the rosters up in the locker room after an away game, and seeing that was the first I knew of it. It wasn’t until the next day that they told me I got Opening Day, which I was pretty happy about. It lined up perfectly with my throwing schedule too.”

What does it mean for a starting pitcher to be given the ball on Opening Day, and what does it mean for you at this point in your career?

Gray: “I try not to look too deeply into it, but obviously it’s really exciting. Even if you think you get it just because the schedule lines up or something like that, you take it.”

What are you focused on the most this season in terms of your development as a player?

Gray: “For me, it’s about getting as many innings in as I can. I don’t have that many innings in my career, so getting to maximize the learning opportunities those provide me and sticking with my process. And ultimately having fun and enjoying my time here.”

Talk to me more about your process – is there something that you’re focusing on in terms of pitch-mix throughout this season?

Gray: “I’m working on a new(ish) curveball this year, and that’s one of my main development goals, and obviously consistent execution in general is something you can always improve.”

Is that something that the organization asked of you either at the end of the year or at the start of this year, or is that something you noticed in yourself that you wanted to improve that you brought to their attention?

Gray: “I’d say it was mutual, my old curveball was difficult to land, it had a good profile but with it being slower and more loopy it was more of a struggle. My new one is more firm, and is much easier to land even though it’s relatively new.”

With the promotion to High-A this year, do you have any specific teams or players circled on the calendar you’re excited to face?

Gray: “I’ll go with Jackson Ferris. He was my roommate in high school, and was my roommate last year at Myrtle. He got traded in the offseason, and he’s also at High-A with the Dodgers right now. (Laughing) That’s the only guy I know.”

My last question for you, I know food is very near and dear to your heart and you consider yourself to be the chef of your apartment, what’s your go-to snack or quick meal if you’ve got a little free time for yourself?

Gray: “The go-to? I think you can’t go wrong with a bacon egg and cheese sandwich (on a bagel), I’d say that’s the one. From the start of Spring Training this year if we’re cooking, we’ve done steaks too so I’ll say that if we’re doing something nice.”

Photo Credit: Todd Johnson, Northside Bound. (Retrieved from Twitter) Handle: @CubsCentral08

Carson Melinder

Carson Melinder is a graduate of the University of Iowa who writes about MLB Prospects, Minor League Baseball, and the St. Louis Cardinals. You can find him on Twitter @ashortking

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