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Inbox: Is Gray Rox best homegrown pitcher?

Beat reporter Thomas Harding answers questions
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies couldn't go wrong on the day of the 2013 MLB Draft. Picking third overall, they were going to end up with either Oklahoma right-handed pitcher Jon Gray or University of San Diego slugger Kris Bryant.

Of course, the Cubs took Bryant with the second overall pick, and he helped them make history. If all goes as it has so far, the rest of Gray's career could be a highlight in Rockies history.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies couldn't go wrong on the day of the 2013 MLB Draft. Picking third overall, they were going to end up with either Oklahoma right-handed pitcher Jon Gray or University of San Diego slugger Kris Bryant.

Of course, the Cubs took Bryant with the second overall pick, and he helped them make history. If all goes as it has so far, the rest of Gray's career could be a highlight in Rockies history.

Where Gray eventually will fall in the Rockies' annals is the subject of the first question in the Beat Reporter's Inbox presented by Edward Jones:

@DanielRutter1 -- Will Jon Gray be the best pitcher homegrown to ever put on a Purple uniform?

Tweet from @DanielRutter1: Will Jon Gray be the best pitcher home grow to ever put on a Purple uniform?

The test will be over time, which has been a challenge for a Rockies franchise that has had trouble sustaining success.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

According to Baseball Reference's wins above replacement (WAR), the Rockies' best was Ubaldo Jimenez's 18.6, followed by Aaron Cook at 16.8 and Jorge De La Rosa (developed in other organizations) at 15.2. The bulk of Jimenez's production came during a three-year period (2008-10), when he averaged a 15-11 record with a 3.43 ERA. The period included a postseason trip in 2009 and a solid 2010.

Gray is off to a nice start with a 5.7 WAR during two-plus seasons, and last year's 10-4 mark with a 3.67 ERA puts him in a good place. He missed considerable time last year due to a foot injury, but has not had an arm issue, which is the key. Jeff Francis, for example, compiled a 7.4 WAR during his first three full seasons (2005-07), but a shoulder injury derailed him.

@TomcatNASCAR -- Based on what you've seen so far, what are you most excited about with the upcoming season?

Tweet from @TomcatNASCAR: Based on what you���ve seen so far, what are you most excited about with the upcoming season?

I posted a story Sunday about Trevor Story's improved situational hitting. People around me are probably tired of me talking about how he could become a star this season.

Rockies Spring Training info | Tickets | Schedule

The other reason for my excitement is Ryan McMahon, who is competing for starts at first base. Drafted as a third baseman, he transitioned in 2016 and looks smooth defensively. He also has had competitive at-bats and strong numbers this spring. The final days of the Cactus League against frontline pitching will determine whether he can force his way on to the Opening Day roster and start regularly. Even if he isn't at that point yet, he will eventually, and I see a guy who will display physical ability and rare intangibles.

@ginaindenver -- Now that #CarGo is back how do you see the #Rockies outfield lining up?

Tweet from @ginaindenver: Now that #CarGo is back how do you see the #Rockies outfield lining up?

Not only is Carlos Gonzalez back under a one-year contract to play right field, but left fielder Gerardo Parra is healthy after undergoing surgery on his right hand at the start of Spring Training. They join center fielder/leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon.

Also, depending on McMahon's readiness, the Rockies could use Ian Desmond in left when he's not at first base. On days Parra doesn't start, Gonzalez likely will be a late-innings defensive replacement who can be a lefty-hitting threat.

@MasterGBHurd -- Who do you see making the Opening Day roster with Pat Valaika and Shawn O'Malley injured. Who will be the 4th outfielder David Dahl or Raimel Tapia?

Tweet from @MasterGBHurd: Who do you see be making the opening day roster with Valakia and Malley injured. Who will be the 4th outfielder Dahl or Tapia

First, Valaika and O'Malley are infielders, so defensively that's a whole different deal. But that reserve outfield position is worth exploring.

Tapia handled the job well last year, after a slow start. Dahl has been groomed as a starter, and it's possible the Rockies would send him to Triple-A rather than have him play a bench role -- especially because a rib injury limited him to 77 Minor League at-bats last year. But Dahl appears to have found his swing this spring, and doesn't seem fazed by coming off the bench.

But let's not limit it to those two, especially because Mike Tauchman -- who saw some off-the-bench time last year -- has had a solid spring offensively at all three positions, and offers speed and power. Noel Cuevas is in play as a right-handed hitter who plays all three positions, and lefty-hitting Jordan Patterson had the added dimension of playing first base.

To round out the bench, the Rockies must decide if they need a middle infielder, with non-roster righty hitter Daniel Castro the obvious candidate.

@5208BallCast If the Rockies are challenging for their first NL West pennant in late July, which prospect would they be willing to jettison in order to add that needed missing piece?

Tweet from @5280BallCast: If the Rockies are challenging for their first NL West pennant in late July, which prospect would they be willing to jettison in order to add that needed missing piece?

Interesting down-the-road question, because we don't know exactly what the missing piece might be. When they beefed up the bullpen (Pat Neshek) and catching (Jonathan Lucroy), they were clearly trying to match with teams that wanted young prospects whom they didn't have to protect on their 40-man rosters after the season. Rockies GM Jeff Bridich rarely trades prospects who can help the big club now or in the near future.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

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