Legends On Deck

Prospects on Deck: CF Joe Gray Jr. – Brewers

Top of the eighth inning.  The Carolina MudCats are trailing the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers 6-2.  With one out, in steps arguably the hottest hitter in Low-A, Joe Gray Jr. who is riding a 17-game hit streak.  Gray is 0-for-2 with a walk to this point.  Carolina just needs him to get on base any possible way he can.  Knowing that this might be his last at-bat, there was hope for a hit to continue the streak.  With the count full, Gray took the pitch that ran far inside for ball four, and collected his second walk of the game.  The Mudcats rallied for two more runs, but fell short not allowing Gray to get another at-bat.  The hit-streak was snapped, but on the bright side with his two walks, Gray will now be working on his 24-game on-base streak.  It was a glorious run of games and it has been a fabulous month of June for the 21-year old.

The Milwaukee Brewers drafted Gray in the second round (60th overall) of the 2018 MLB Draft out of Hattiesburg High School in Mississippi.  He has power potential, a plus arm, and plus defending skills according to Baseball America’s scouting report and is projected to be a 25-30 home run hitter.  There were five outfielders selected before him out of high school including Jarred Kelenic (who has made his major league debut).  Committed to Ole Miss, the Brewers were able to persuade Gray into signing his first professional contract, and immediately put him to work playing for the Arizona League Brewers.  He played 24 games that season and dealt with his share of struggles which is not uncommon for a player coming out of high school.

Gray made his way to the Rocky Mountain Vibes of the Pioneer League to start his second professional season.  The Vibes were affiliated with the Brewers until the restructuring of the minor leagues and are now an independent team in a MLB Partner League.  Gray put up similar numbers in 2019 playing in a handful of more games than he did in 2018.

Then COVID-19 happened.

The 2020 minor league season was cancelled and if you were not a part of a taxi squad for the major league team you belonged to you did not play.  For some, the lost season was devastating to their progression.  For others it was a time to make adjustments, possibly study film, work with coaches or other players, or just work out to stay in shape in hopes of a return in 2021.

Luckily for all of the players and all of us, things are back to “normal” and the 2021 minor league season is underway.

Joe Gray, now a member of the new Low-A East Carolina Mudcats, had a slow start to this year’s campaign as did so many others.  That was until May 21st.  Heading into the game against the Delmarva Shorebirds (Baltimore Orioles), Gray was hitting .196.  Then the hit-streak started.  He would rattle off 14 hits in his next eight games to close out the month of May, raising his batting average to .273.  His performance earned him a share of the Brewers MiLB Player of the Month honors.  Gray continued to tear the cover off the ball when the calendar switched to June.

Prior to the hit-streak being snapped on June 11th, Gray was hitting .448 for the month of June and had a slugging percentage of 1.172, raising his batting average to .316.  The numbers Gray put up during his streak were staggering and in all likelihood will earn him another Player of the Month award.

When it was all said and done, Gray accumulated: nine multi-hit games (including a three-hit night on May 25th), eight home runs, 30 RBI, 18 runs scored, five triples, five doubles, twelve walks, and four stolen bases.

The Milwaukee Brewers have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to top outfield prospects, but if Joe Gray continues to perform the way he has over the past month, look for him to leapfrog many as he continues to work towards the next level.

John Ginder
%d bloggers like this: