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The Road to The Show™: Josiah Gray

Former infielder has made stunning rise to top of Dodgers system
Josiah Gray owns a 0.96 WHIP and has held opponents to a .192 average over 182 1/3 Minor League innings. (Gregory Bull/AP)
December 21, 2020

Each week, profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken to reach the brink of realizing his Major League dream. Here's a look at Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Josiah Gray. For more player journeys on The Road to The Show, click here.

Each week, profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken to reach the brink of realizing his Major League dream. Here's a look at Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Josiah Gray. For more player journeys on The Road to The Show, click here.

Two years ago today, Reds pitching prospect Josiah Gray was celebrating his 21st birthday when he learned he'd been traded to the Dodgers. As he turns 23, the right-hander is Los Angeles' top prospect (62nd overall) and on track to help the Dodgers defend their World Series title in 2021.

A former infielder who didn't turn to pitching full-time until after his sophomore season at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York, Gray went 11-0 with a 1.25 ERA and 0.89 WHIP over 93 1/3 innings as a junior in 2018, prompting the Reds to make him the 72nd overall pick in that spring's Draft.

The New Yorker got right to work that summer, making 12 starts for Rookie Advanced Greeneville, where he posted a 2.58 ERA and held Appalachian League foes to a .155 average over 52 1/3 innings. Gray, who initially seemed like a long-term project, was already rising up the Reds' prospect list.

Cincinnati wasn't the only organization impressed with him. When the Dodgers dealt four players -- including outfielder Yasiel Puig and left-hander Alex Wood -- to the Reds on Dec. 21, 2018, they demanded Gray, along with shortstop prospect Jeter Downs, in return. Gray's first full pro season began in Great Lakes in 2019, rather than with the Reds' Dayton affiliate.

Gray roared out of the gate with the Loons. He threw five perfect frames against visiting South Bend in his second start, fanning five and needing only 52 pitches on an evening when the game-time temperature was 37 degrees.

"I just felt like my command was there," Gray said after the game. "We were working on the fastball usage, just keeping that up. Weather permitted that most guys didn't want to swing the bat, so just kept pounding my fastball from inning one. I knew that my stuff was on today and I'd be dominant."

That confidence, a hallmark of his play as a pro, would carry him much further in 2019. After three more Midwest League starts, with his ERA sitting at 1.93, the Dodgers promoted him to the more comfortable climes of the California League.

Rancho Cucamonga plays in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the hitter-friendly Cal League, but Gray remained unfazed. He cruised through 12 starts with the Quakes, capped by a win over San Jose on July 12 in which he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. That victory lifted his record to 7-0 with a 2.14 ERA over 67 1/3 innings. Barely 13 months into his pro career, he was headed to Double-A with Tulsa in the Texas League.

While Gray wasn't quite as overwhelming with the Drillers, he continued to be very good. He wrapped up the season by going 3-2 with a 2.75 ERA in nine outings covering 39 1/3 frames and did not allow a home run. In all, he went 11-2 with a 2.28 ERA while fanning 147, walking 31 and yielding only four long balls over 130 innings in 2019. The incredible performance -- particularly for someone who had only been a full-time pitcher for two years -- earned him the Dodgers' Branch Rickey Minor League Pitcher of the Year award.

"It was close to the dream season. I don't know how much better he could have done. In a first full season, to go three levels and finish at Double-A is just remarkable," Dodgers farm director Will Rhymes told's Josh Jackson. "We had to keep [promoting] him in an attempt to present him with a challenge, and I'm not sure he found it."

The Dodgers are so loaded that it's questionable whether Gray would have gotten a Major League callup in a normal 2020 season. As it was, he spent much of the summer at the team's alternate training site at the University of Southern California. Rhymes thinks that might actually have been an advantage as Gray works on improving his secondary pitches.

"He's so competitive that getting him away from game competition and trying to win helped him round out his pitches," Rhymes told "We saw improvement in the characteristics of his slider and curveball and wanting to use all of his pitches. His slider remains his main secondary pitch. … He still has an electric fastball and a ton of confidence in it."

Although considered a bit undersized for a Major League starter at 6-foot-1, Gray has a mid-90s fastball with riding life, a slider with the potential to be considered plus and a changeup that's already impressive, despite being practically brand new.

That's also a good way to sum up Gray's astonishing rise. Despite his inexperience, he's developed a devastating arsenal and above-average command in very little time. Today's birthday boy may soon be celebrating his arrival at Dodger Stadium.

John Parker is an editor for