Cubs pitching prospect ready to make a name for himself in 2023
Drew Gray is not a household name yet among many Cubs fans, but the young southpaw could put himself on the map with a strong 2023 campaign.
The Cubs selected Gray in the 3rd round out of IMG Academy in Florida in the 2021 Draft.
He was dominant during his first taste of professional baseball in late-2021, striking out 9 batters against only 1 walk in 4 innings in the Arizona Complex League.
But Gray was dealt a dose of adversity early in 2022 as he felt something in his left elbow when he was building up for the season. MRIs confirmed that he had torn his UCL and needed Tommy John surgery.
“It’s hard to accept at first,” Gray said in an interview with Marquee Sports Network’s Lance Brozdowski recently. “I was like, oh, maybe I just take the weekend off and come back Monday able to throw again. But it wasn’t like that.”
Gray was able to find the silver lining quickly and felt he was in a great spot in the Cubs organization.
“This probably would’ve been a development year anyways for me,” he said. “If there was any time I had to get it done, it was this year and I accepted that. I can’t change the fact that it’s torn.
“I was like, OK, yeah, it’s a development year. Get stronger, figure out some mechanics stuff and then get back next year. Better now than later.”
Gray had the benefit of a support system around him that not only included friends and family but also a bunch of players and coaches in the Cubs system that have experienced Tommy John surgery firsthand.
It let him know what to expect and understand that the recovery — which typically lasts about a year — is not always linear.
Gray — who turns 20 in May — is expected to throw off a mound in the near future and if all goes according to play, could spend some time with the Cubs’ Class-A affiliate in Myrtle Beach in 2023.
He already has the pedigree of a high draft pick but Gray is confident that when he returns to game action next season, he will be an even better pitcher.
“I expect to be mid-90s [in velocity] and then just as importantly, holding throughout outings so it all lasts,” Gray said. “I’ve definitely gotten stronger over this year. I’ve still got about 5-6 more months to go but definitely getting stronger.
“And then some mechanical changes — a couple major things that I’m confident will shoot me up.”
In addition to his plus fastball that has ride and high spin, Gray also throws a curveball, slider and changeup. While he’s been rehabbing from the elbow injury, Gray has been tinkering with the grip on his changeup and is in a spot where he feels more comfortable than ever with the pitch.
Gray gets into detail with his pitch mechanics in the full interview with Brozdowski:
Gray came in at No. 19 on Brozdowski’s midseason Cubs prospect updates and is part of a wave of young arms coming up through the system. He was roommates with fellow left-hander Jackson Ferris — the Cubs’ 2nd-round pick in 2022 — at IMG Academy.
The Cubs have also used 1st-round picks on pitchers in each of the last two drafts (Cade Horton in 2022, Jordan Wicks in 2021) and acquired some intriguing arms at the trade deadline, led by Hayden Wesneski, Caleb Kilian and Benjamin Brown.
Cubs VP/director of pitching Craig Breslow hopped on a recent episode of the Cubs Weekly Podcast to discuss the organization’s pitching infrastructure and what comes next: