Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Josiah Gray entered the 2021 season looking to become an important piece for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but injuries took that opportunity away from him before he was traded midseason.
Originally acquired in the deal that sent Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig, along with Alex Wood to the Cincinnati Reds, Gray quickly rose through the Dodgers’ farm system and established himself as one of baseball’s best prospects.
On most teams, the right-hander would have been a top-five starter, but because he was blocked by multiple pitchers on a stacked Dodgers’ roster, Gray was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City to begin the 2021 season.
The then-23-year-old went to Triple-A looking to prove his value to the Major League club.
“I’ve heard a lot of what everyone else has said: ‘Just kind of stay ready, go out and prove you can be an asset for us at the big league level.’ That’s what I’m aiming to do,” Gray said last May.
“I haven’t heard much about what I have to do. I just know that being a pitcher, you have to pitch well. That’s kind of what my mentality is. I’ll kind of let the cards fall how they may, depending on how this year goes. Kind of just staying healthy, going out there and giving it my all.”
Gray made the start on Opening Day for Oklahoma City and pitched five innings while posting a career-high 10 strikeouts as he made his best effort to show he could help L.A. win.
As injuries to the Dodgers rotation began to pile up, they planned to have Gray make his MLB debut in May, however, he also began to deal with his own injury.
The right-hander was scratched minutes before a second start of the season for OKC due to a right shoulder impingement that forced the organization to shut him down, which ended up keeping him out two months.
Gray returned to the mound on July 4 and pitched two perfect innings and spent the next two weeks building his arm back up.
On July 20, the Dodgers promoted Gray for his MLB debut as a multi-inning reliever against the National League West-leading San Francisco Giants.
Gray went four innings and allowed four runs in relief. It wasn’t an ideal start to his career but he did strike out seven hitters, showing off some of the ability that made him so highly regarded by the Dodgers and clubs around the league who were looking to acquire him.
He made his first career start against the Colorado Rockies on July 25 and pitched another four innings, this time allowing just two runs while striking out six.
Five days later, Gray was traded to the Washington Nationals as one of the two headliners, along with Keibert Ruiz, in a deal for superstars Trea Turner and Max Scherzer.
Gray immediately replaced Scherzer in the Nationals’ rotation and made 12 starts for Washington, providing mostly good results. In eight of the outing, he allowed three runs or fewer, but from Aug. 30-Sept. 17 he went on a rough four-game stretch where he allowed 22 runs in 17.1 innings.
Overall, Gray finished the season with a 5.48 ERA and 6.00 FIP, but in his starts with the Nationals he pitched to a 5.31 ERA, 5.71 FIP, 9.05 strikeouts per nine, 4.02 walks per nine and 0.2 WAR in 62.2 innings.
Gray’s 2021 highlight
The highlight of Gray’s season with the Dodgers was making his MLB debut while his family was there to live to watch it.
While he didn’t have immediate success, he showed flashes of his talent and it should be noted how highly the Dodgers viewed him to trust him for four innings in what felt like a must-win game at the time.
Gray’s best game of the year came in his final start on Oct. 2 against the Boston Red Sox. He went six innings and allowed only three hits and one run while striking out seven in a 5-3 loss.
Going into the 2022 season, Gray is nearly a lock to remain in the Nationals’ rotation.
The Nationals don’t have much hope this year with their rebuild continuing so Gray should have every opportunity to work through any struggles and continue to grow as a big-league pitcher.
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