The reigning World Series Champions added another weapon to their arsenal after calling up their number one pitching prospect, Josiah Gray.
The Dodgers added Gray to their Taxi Squad ahead of their crucial series against the first-place Giants this week. Manager Dave Roberts told mlbbro.com he would be activated before Tuesday night’s game, but since he recently made a start for their Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City, the team will likely use an Opener and let Gray work most of his innings out of the bullpen.
Gray wasn’t on the radar for most scouts while he attended New Rochelle High School in New York. He committed to LeMoyne College in Syracuse, New York as a two-way player; being the king of the infield at shortstop and controlling the game as a pitcher in 2014.
“The athleticism that made Gray a shortstop translates well to pitching,” said scouts. “He repeats his delivery well and shows the ability to harness his electric fastball and slider.”
Before his junior season, Gray decided to begin pitching full-time. In 13 starts that season he posted an 11-0 record and a 1.25 ERA.
The Cincinnati Reds selected him in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft, but he was traded to the Dodgers that same year on his 21st birthday in a deal that sent MLBbro Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig to Cincy.
Scouts are extremely high on Gray’s fastball which can reach up to 97 MPH and “seems to explode at the plate with riding and rising life.” He also has worked to sharpen both his slider and an upper 70’s curveball while at the team’s alternate training site this season.
During the 2019 season, he dominated at each of his three stops in the Dodgers organization on the way to being named their Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He had a 2.70 ERA with 147 strikeouts in 130 innings and an 11-2 record through 25 starts.
Gray had his 2020 campaign lost after the minor league season was canceled due to Covid.
This season Gray has appeared in four games for the Dodgers Triple-A team, the Oklahoma City Dodgers. He is 1-1 with a 2.87 ERA, 22 Strikeouts, two walks all while holding opponents to a .145 batting average.
It’s been a great week for him, as he collected his first career hit last Thursday on an RBI hit to left.
Gray will have every opportunity to earn a prominent role on the Dodger pitching staff whether it be as a starter or out of the bullpen. One thing is for certain, he’ll be pitching under the spotlight and with the eyes of baseball on him as he has entered one of the most competitive division races we have seen.
What’s happening in the borough of Queens right now isn’t something that we’ve seen before.
Two young, Black, starting pitchers putting together dominant seasons on the same staff.
Think about it…in the entirety of Major League Baseball history, only 15 Black starters have ever won 20 games in a season. Of those, only seven have walked away with a Cy Young award.
So, when you see Marcus Stroman (4-4, 2.66 ERA) and Tijauan Walker (4-2, 2.17) continuing to carry the battered New York Mets, you’re watching history.
Brown On The Mound: Taijuan Walker & Marcus Stroman Black Ball Phillies
Melanated Mound Marauders
The Mets are still holding on to first place in the National League East, 3.5 games up on the second-place Braves, and the only team in the division with a winning record. They’ve done this despite having more people on the injured list than in the dugout at times, and an offense that sits near the bottom of the NL in home runs, and ranks dead last in runs batted in.
But on the mound, New York has dominated. Their 3.19 staff ERA trails only the San Diego Padres. No one has had a bigger impact on those impressive pitching numbers than Stroman and Walker, two of the three Mets hurlers who have made at least 10 starts this season.
They are tied with Jacob deGrom for the team lead in wins (4), and their names can be found across the pitching leaderboards.
Both rank in the National League’s Top 20 in earned run average and innings pitched. They carry matching 1.06 WHIP ratings and between them, batters are hitting a combined .221.
Another rising Black star, Jack Flaherty, is probably the early front-runner for Cy Young honors, but no pair of pitchers have had to shoulder a bigger burden than Stroman and Walker.
The timing of their mutual ascensions couldn’t be better.
Marcus Stroman Gambles On Himself
Stroman faced doubts after opting out of the 2020 season. During his time away from the daily grind of the season, he made himself a better pitcher, adding a split changeup to his repertoire. Utilizing his splitter in tandem with his sinker, he’s been able to keep batters from squaring up and off the bases, even without the high strikeout numbers that have permeated all of baseball.
Stro has matured as well; something he spoke about before the season began.
“I’m the kind of person who is always working on myself as well,” he told Metsmerized Online. “Whether it be my self-care, whether it be my mind, whether it be my breathing, I’m always trying to improve. Not only in the field, but in life.”
That improved mental toughness showed when deGrom went down with an injury. Stroman picked up the slack and then some. In 11 starts, he’s given up more than three runs only twice.
One of baseball’s smallest pitchers in stature, he’s also been able to eat innings and protect the New York bullpen, going at least six innings nine times.
Tai-Walking On These Haters
Walker has been a much bigger surprise. He’s already won as many games this season as he had in the last three seasons combined. Injuries robbed him of some precious development time just when he appeared to be tapping into his potential.
The curve of his career was bending towards success, with an earned run average that has decreased from 4.56 in 2015 to 2.17 this year.
But, after a 2017 campaign that saw him go 9-9 in 28 starts for the Arizona Diamondbacks, he tore the UCL in his right elbow and, after Tommy John surgery, was only able to make four starts over the next two years.
After starting the year with the Seattle Mariners, Walker rounded into shape during the second half of last season. He was able to give the Toronto Blue Jays some solid outings and finished with a 2-1 record and 1.37 ERA in six appearances.
There wasn’t much of a market for him though, as teams were worried if he could be counted on as a rotation regular.
Before his own trip to the injured list, he was erasing all doubts.
In his nine prior starts, he allowed more than three runs one time.
Over five starts in May, Walker went 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA. Opposing hitters were left flailing, batting .156 against him. His WHIP was an obscene 0.71.
Walker, like Stroman, doesn’t rely on overpowering stuff. He pitches. He changes locations and speeds and makes quick work of each lineup he faces.
History In The Making
Two unlikely heroes in Gotham have made the Mets exciting again.
If New York can regain its health, and find its offense, a division title could be forthcoming for the first time since 2015, when the Mets advanced to the World Series. Then, whoever the Mets face could have to deal with deGrom, Stroman, and Walker twice in a seven-game series.
Good luck with that. Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker are on the verge of something special, and quite possibly, historic.