Before he was selected first overall in the 2009 Amateur Draft by the Washington Nationals, Stephen Strasburg was the called the most-hyped draft pick of all time by ESPN. As a college junior, he posted a 13-1 record with a 1.32 ERA, and struck out 195 batters in 119 innings.

Strasburg was a lock to go number one overall, and when he made his Major League debut a year later, striking out 14 in seven innings of work, it cemented his journey from top pick to top pitcher.

Since Strasburg’s electric debut, 15 pitchers have been selected in the top five picks of the draft, including Colorado’s own Jon Gray, who was drafted third overall in 2013 and made his own Major League debut on Tuesday.

In the 23-year-old’s debut against the Seattle Mariners, Gray pitched four innings, allowed three runs, two of them earned, five hits, walked two, and struck-out four. It was a serviceable debut for a nervous rookie – one who is carrying the gargantuan expectations of Rockies’ fans on his shoulders. As such, some fans wanted – even expected – more. But is it fair to expect more from such a young arm so early in his career?

Let’s go year-by-year, since 2010, and compare how other top-five drafted pitchers have fared in their young careers thus far, to get an idea of whether or not Gray is developing as expected.


Jameson Taillon, RHP, selected 2nd by the Pittsburgh Pirates

MLB Debut: N/A

Taillon is a highly-rated prospect who has yet to make his MLB debut. He was compared to Strasburg as a high school senior by Baseball America, but hasn’t pitched in a professional baseball game since October 2013. Taillon has dealt with his share of injuries (Tommy John, hernia, etc.) and is unlikely to pitch again until 2016, but entered the 2015 season ranked as the 29th best prospect in the game by Baseball America.

Drew Pomeranz, RHP, selected 5th by the Cleveland Indians

MLB Debut: W, 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 SO

Rockies fans should remember Pomeranz. In 2011, he was the major piece received from the Indians in return for Ubaldo Jimenez. Pomeranz pitched well in his debut in 2011, holding the Cincinnati Reds scoreless through five innings and picking up the win. Unfortunately, Pomeranz was unable to replicate the success of his debut. He went 2-9 in 2012 and 0-4 in 2013, with a combined ERA over 5.00. The Rockies traded Pomeranz to the Oakland Athletics in December of 2013. The 26-year-old has improved while with Oakland. He is a serviceable 4-4 with a 3.99 ERA in 2015.


Gerrit Cole, RHP, selected 1st by the Pittsburgh Pirates

MLB Debut: W, 6 1/3 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 2 SO

In 2015, Gerrit Cole made his first All-Star game, and currently leads the NL in wins. The 24-year-old is 14-5 with a 2.29 ERA in 21 starts during the 2015 season. Cole was the first overall pick in 2011, and has been an above-average starter since he made his debut in June 2013, taking a shutout into the seventh and driving in two runs of his own. Cole is already one of the best starters in the MLB, and is in the thick of the 2015 NL Cy Young Award race.

Danny Hultzen, LHP, selected 2nd by the Seattle Mariners

MLB Debut: N/A

Hultzen was considered one of the most polished prospects in the 2011 draft class due to the excellent command he has over his pitches. He was drafted out of Virginia after dominating college ball for three years as a hitter and a pitcher. However, he missed entire 2013 and 2014 seasons due to injuries, and was shut down in mid-way through 2015 due to shoulder fatigue. Hultzen has had horrible luck with injuries thus far in his career.

Trevor Bauer, RHP, selected 3rd by the Arizona Diamondbacks 

MLB Debut: ND, 4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 3 SO

Bauer made his MLB debut when he was just 21 years old. Bauer started four games for the Diamondbacks in 2012. In the offseason, Bauer was traded to the Cleveland Indians as part of a three-team deal. This season Bauer is 8-8 with a 3.98 ERA in 21 starts for the Indians. He is firmly an average to slightly-above-average talent at this point in his career, but at 24-years-old, there is plenty of room for improvement.

Dylan Bundy, RHP, selected 4th by the Baltimore Orioles

MLB Debut: 1.2 IP in career; 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB

Bundy made an abrupt debut in 2012, throwing 1.2 scoreless innings over the course of two games at just 19 years old. Since then, injuries have hit the young pitcher hard. Bundy, who was a premiere pitcher coming out of high school, had Tommy John surgery in 2013, and has spent time on the DL in three straight seasons.


Kevin Gausman, RHP, selected 4th overall by the Baltimore Orioles 

MLB Debut: L, 5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 5 SO

Kevin Gausman attended Grandview High School, in Centennial, Colo., where he starred for school’s baseball team as a pitcher. Gausman has a plus-fastball and a bevy of breaking pitches. The 24-year-old is 2-2 this season with a 3.97 ERA in 6 starts. Gausman started 20 games for the Orioles in 2014, going 7-7 with a 3.57 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 113.1 innings of work. Gausman is already an above-average starter and still under 25.

Kyle Zimmer, RHP, selected 5th by the Kansas City Royals

MLB Debut: N/A

The 23-year-old Zimmer has yet to reach the big leagues, likely because of his lengthy injury history. He has yet to complete a professional season without requiring surgery. He missed most of 2014 due to a strained muscle. The Royals prospect is talented, but can’t stay healthy.


Mark Appel, RHP, selected 1st by the Houston Astros 

MLB Debut: N/A

Appel is currently pitching in Triple-A, for the Fresno Grizzlies. Appel is 1-2 with a 4.45 ERA in six starts for the Grizzlies. Appel tends to struggle for long periods of time before finding his rhythm, which has hurt him at the Triple-A level. Appel has the velocity, movement, and command to be a good Major League starter. He just has to find some consistency. The 24-year-old has a long career ahead of him if can learn to be consistent.

Jon Gray, RHP, selected 3rd by the Colorado Rockies

MLB Debut: ND, 4 IP,5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 4 SO

Gray could become the ace that the Rockies have been searching for, the one they envisioned when drafting him 3rd overall, or he could bust, and be off the team by 2018. Luckily, The Rockies have plenty of time to figure it out.

Kohl Stewart, RHP, selected 4th by the Minnesota Twins

MLB Debut: N/A

Kohl Stewart has yet to make it to Double-A ball. He currently holds a 3.62 ERA over 97 innings pitched in A+ ball.


Brady Aiken, LHP, selected 1st overall by the Houston Astros (currently with Cleveland Indians)

MLB Debut: N/A

Despite being drafted first overall by Houston, Aiken did not sign with the Astros in 2014. Concerns about his health and disagreement over terms of his signing bonus made him the first overall pick to go unsigned since 1983. Aiken underwent Tommy John surgery in March and was selected by Cleveland 17th overall in this year’s draft.

Tyler Kolek, RHP, selected 2nd overall by the Miami Marlins

With a fastball that has been clocked at 102 mph, Kolek was was one of the most highly-touted high school prospects in years. In Rookie ball (2014) and High-A (2015) he has combined to go 4-11 with a 4.47 ERA in 28 starts. He is progressing on target and could be a top-of-the-rotation starter for Miami in a few years. He has logged 86 innings so far in 2015.

Carlos Rodon, LHP, selected 3rd overall by the Chicago White Sox

MLB Debut: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 1 SO (in relief)

Rodon is the only pitcher from the 2014 top five to already make his Major League debut. Rodon has started 14 games for the White Sox this season, going 4-4 with a 4.84 ERA in 80 innings. It is too early to tell whether Rodon will become an effective MLB pitcher.


Of the 15 pitchers drafted in the top-5 since Strasburg went first in 2009, only six have appeared in a Major League game. More than half haven’t even pitched in the MLB.

Of those six who have pitched in the majors, the Cy Young candidate Cole is the clear standout. Gausman, Pomeranz, and Bauer are proving to be serviceable Major Leaguers, while Gray and Rodon need more time before evaluation. Bundy, like so many pitchers on this list, has struggled with injuries.

Less than half of the top-five draft picks since 2010 have made it to the big leagues, and only one has emerged as legitimate ace in that time. Rockies fans have a right to be concerned that one of those pitchers did not pan out as expected (at least in Colorado), Pomeranz, but should take some solace in the fact that Gray has so far avoided the injuries that have plagued so many of these young arms.

Developing a top-five pick into a legitimate big leaguer is still a 50/50 proposition. Gray, it appears, is on the right path to being on the right side of that equation.

Bryce Rudnick, a Mile High Sports intern and CU-Boulder student, contributed to this report