HOUSTON -- Rice junior second baseman Tristan Gray was selected on the final day of the 2017 Major League Baseball amateur draft Wednesday (June 14).
Gray was a 13th round selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates, the 388th player taken overall. Rice's final 2017 total was three major league draft picks. Owls Glenn Otto and Dane Myers were selected on Tuesday by the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers, respectively.
A Houston native, Gray shared the Rice team lead with eight home runs this season. He finished third on the team in batting average (.313), slugging percentage (.540) and doubles (16), and was fourth in RBI (39) and walks (24) for the full season. He helped pace the squad's eight-game run through the postseason as the Owls won the Conference USA Championship and played in the NCAA Regional. Gray hit an electric .382 in the postseason with four home runs and two doubles for a .794 slugging percentage. He drove in eight runs, scored seven times and maintained a .432 on-base percentage in the eight postseason games. In addition to a nine-game hitting streak to finish the year, the 6-foot-3 former prep star from Elkins High School reached base in each of the last 29 games to end 2017, highlighting a sensational second half of the season where he hit .368 and totaled 34 RBI over the final 32 games.
Gray's offense skills are, however, only part of his resume. He maintained a steady .970 fielding percentage for the full season, and turned or started 33 double plays. In one 38-game stretch midway through the year Gray made just one error in the field. He recorded season highs in both assists (seven) and put outs (six) in a single Conference USA league game against Florida International - which was essentially one fielder having a hand in 13 of the game's 27 outs.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have liked Rice's middle infielders over the years, drafting Brock Holt (2009) and Brian Friday (2007), and trading for Josh Rodriguez (who made his MLB debut with the organization in 2011). Gray and the Owl draftees from the last 26 years can trace their respective success to the leadership and daily training of Rice head coach Wayne Graham, himself a former major leaguer. Under coach Graham Rice baseball finished with a winning record for the 26th-straight year in a row. The Owls advanced to the NCAA Tournament for a 23rd-consecutive season, currently the nation's third-longest active streak of reaching a NCAA Regional.
A host of college and high school players were selected over the three-day, 40-round event. Rice Owl signee Trei Cruz of nearby Episcopal High School was selected in the 35th round by the hometown Houston Astros.