Bay Area Sports: Ranking the Top 30 Players

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Sep 19, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) reacts between pitches while playing against the Houston Astros in the first inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

#5 – Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics

The Athletics struggled through one of their worst seasons in decades last year, but every fifth day, Sonny Gray gave everyone a reason to be excited. Since his call-up in 2013, Gray has developed into one of the best pitchers in the American League, and in 2015, his growth continued.

In 2015, Gray finished second in the American League in opponent batting average (.217), opponent slugging percentage (.316), and hits allowed per nine innings (7.18). He was third in ERA (2.73), fourth in opponent on-base percentage (.273), and sixth in WHIP (1.082). He matched his career-high with 14 wins but was hurt by poor run support and the awful Oakland bullpen more than once during the season.

He was named an All-Star for the first time, and seemed the likely choice to be American League starter, but didn’t pitch because he started the Sunday before the game. Gray was also one of the three finalists for the AL Cy Young award, but ultimately finished third in the race while Dallas Keuchel won the award for the first time, and David Price finished second.

Price and Gray are both former Vanderbilt Commodores and are the two premier players from the school. The university has become a professional baseball player factory in recent years, and Gray and Price are two of the prime examples.

As the Athletics endure a rebuilding phase, Gray is a piece to build around. He’s already one of the best in baseball, and he’s only in his third year. He will get better.

Next: A Big Man with Big Talent