Kyle Gray’s success goes beyond the numbers


When talking to players such as Chris Gittens and Mike Ford during their rehab assignments with the Staten Island, it was interesting that one player stood out to both of them. That player was second baseman Kyle Gray, who was the Yankees’ 14th Round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft out of the University of West Virginia.

Gray did not have a great batting average in 2018 (.170). However, batting average did not define his year. He had a team-high seven home runs, drove in 21 runs, and he was second on the team in walks with 22 (Alex Junior had the most with 33).

The 21-year-old left-handed hitter had a breakout month in August. Despite his .205 batting average during the month, he hit six home runs and drove in 16 runs with a slugging percentage of .474.

Kyle Gray ended the 2018 season with a strong month of August for Staten Island (Robert M Pimpsner/Pinstriped Prospects)

For a player coming out of college, not having success in professional baseball has to be a challenge, especially when you are coming off of a year where you had great success. Once the hits started to fall for Gray, he was able to feel better at the plate:

“I was feeling good at the plate. The numbers didn’t show but where I was at the plate, I was fine mentally and physically. Then, the hits started to fall. I started getting a few extra-base hits and few home runs, which made me feel better inside because after a while, you get tired of getting out all the time. I feel pretty good,” said Gray back in August.

Despite the lack of results that Gray had at the plate in the early going, SI Yankees manager Lino Diaz talked about the challenges that could be for a player starting out:

“It’s tough because if you are not mature enough, it is easy for you to start pressing, start doing a little too much. I think he’s the kind of guy that has the maturity to handle it and the maturity to handle the third, fourth hole hitter where you are going to get to pitch tough and still have the maturity to put up good at-bats and be dangerous with runners in scoring position.”

For a player to have that kind of maturity at a younger age is a key quality for a player. Gray credits his time at West Virginia for helping him grow both as a player and a person:

“It helped a lot. Going to college and maturing as a person and as a player definitely got me ready to when I stepped foot in this organization. I think the way I take it day in and day out with my routine was because of how I handled myself in college and how I was taught from those coaches to kind of get me ready for this point in my life.”

As for his draft day experience, Gray talked about the wait that he had and the great experience of being drafted by the New York Yankees:

“It was a waiting process. First two days went by and I was kind of wondering what was going on. The Yankees called me right before their pick and it was a pretty cool experience. One of the best things I have ever been a part of.”

During his childhood, the one player that Gray enjoyed watching was another infielder that was a leader in New York and was known for his humility both on and away from the diamond:

Definitely Derek Jeter is number one overall. The way he played the game, the way he carried himself, just how humble he was. Whether it was on or off the field, he handled it in a professional manner. That’s tough to do nowadays it seems for players when money and stuff get involved. They kind of go off the beaten path of where their routes were, but he seemed to stay true to that his whole career.”

There is always an adjustment for a player whenever they go from college ball to pro ball. For Gray, the key for him was to mentally prepare for the everyday grind in a condensed Short-Season schedule:

“The adjustment was similar to the Big 12. Lot of the same arms, same miles-per hour, things like that. The way you go about everything is completely different from a college standpoint to a professional standpoint. You don’t have to worry about school. You get to the park and you spend all day here. In college, you worry about classes, traveling, and you don’t play every day. That was a big adjustment for me was learning to play everyday and getting my body and mind mentally set to be ready for a game every day.”

Gray’s power to right field jumps out when you watch him take the field. However, there are other strong qualities to his game. He only had five errors in 31 games at second base and when he is at the plate, he is known to lay down the surprise bunt and it is something he has done since being at West Virginia:

“It helped a lot. Going to college and maturing as a person and as a player definitely got me ready to when I stepped foot in this organization. I think the way I take it day in and day out with my routine was because of how I handled myself in college and how I was taught from those coaches to kind of get me ready for this point in my life.”

With his ability to bunt for a hit and hit for pop, Gray could be one of those players that stands out in 2019 if luck goes his way at the plate. He has the tools to succeed and his maturity will take him a long way in the organization.