Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
When the Oakland A's lost starters Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin to injuries in late March, the upcoming 2014 season didn't look very bright for the northern California franchise.
Parker and Griffin were both young and talented pitchers, who had combined for 26 wins in 2013. With free agent Bartolo Colon (18 wins) jumping ship to sign with the New York Mets, Parker and Griffin were going to have to be the anchor to the team's pitching staff even at the ages of 25 and 26, respectively.
Elbow injuries and a trip to the surgeon ended Parker and Griffin's 2014 season before it began.
Meanwhile, the A's were trying to figure out how to piece together a starting rotation. The team had signed veteran Scott Kazmir to a two-year deal in December, but he was not really a top-of-the-rotation guy. They shifted Jesse Chavez from the bullpen to a starting role, but again, he wasn't likely to be an elite starter.
The A's had acquired Drew Pomeranz from Colorado in December as well, and he has the tools to be a top starter, but things didn't pan out in the light air of Coors Field and he was a question mark heading into the season.
Which left two options for the backed-into-a-corner A's: 27-year-old Tommy Milone coming off a second consecutive solid campaign in 2013 (12-9, 4.14 ERA, 1.27 WHIP) or 24-year-old Sonny Gray, the talented second-year right-hander who had just 10 major league starts to his resume.
Oakland wisely chose Gray to be their No. 1 starter.
Gray has been nothing short of spectacular in 2014. In 10 starts he's 5-1 with a league-leading 1.99 ERA and 1.088 WHIP. He has yet to yield more than three runs in any start this season.
Combined with an Oakland offense pounding out an average of 5.05 runs a night means the A's have a great chance to win every time Gray takes to the mound.
Gray uses a low 90s fastball along with a slider, curveball and change-up to get the job done. He hasn't been the strikeout-an-inning guy in 2014 that he was as a rookie, but he's lowered his ERA and WHIP to compensate fantasy owners.
The 24-year-old is ranked ninth among AL starting pitchers in the Sports Network's Starting Pitcher Evaluator and 13th overall at 3.072. (The Evaluator measures a pitcher's effectiveness in four categories - ERA, WHIP, strikeouts per innings pitched and wins per start)
He had a preseason Yahoo ranking of 142 and the 12th-round pick has been a steal at that price, pitching like a fourth-rounder (current Yahoo ADP 38).
There is nothing we have seen over his 20 career starts and 22 appearances which makes us believe this is a fluke.
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