While conference tournaments often get criticized -- justifiably so -- for taking away some of the relevance of the regular season, they are a wonderful opportunity for scouts to see the best players in the conference compete in one venue in a crucial point in the year.
This week we saw an ace return to dominance, the stock of a former potential top-five pick continue to plummet, and a big weekend from a first baseman in the Mountain West Conference who probably will be off the board within the first dozen picks.
After dominating hitters for the first two and a half months of the season, Jonathan Gray has had his struggles in May. The Oklahoma ace had a start pushed back because of illness, and hasn’t gone deep into games for most of the month.
This was not the case Thursday against Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament. Gray was outstanding, going the distance and giving up just three hits and one walk while striking out 12 in a 2-0 victory. Gray also retired nine via ground ball against the Bears, and his fastball and slider looked like the plus-plus pitches that they have for most of the season.
“It was impressive,” an AL scout said. “When you throw as hard as he does and then come back with a slider like that, it really isn’t fair. The last couple of weeks he struggled to finish off hitters, but that obviously wasn’t the case today. If the changeup gets anywhere near the level the other two pitches get, then you have a special prospect. But he’s pretty darn good without it.”