Does Adderall Add to the Fastball?
Two days ago, the news broke that Jonathan Gray was one of two players to test positive for Adderall in tests administered by MLB to the top 200 propects in the draft. Adderall is an amphetamine. There is a decent chance (I would say in the neighborhood of one in three) that Gray is selected by the Cubs with the second overall pick tomorrow, which makes me curious about this incident. Two observations:
The history of PEDs in MLB is littered with folks who convinced themselves that a particular drug would, in fact, have no (or even a negative) effect on player performance. In the early 90s, old-school commentators would routinely tell us that building muscle was a recipe for disaster, it couldn’t enhance hand-eye coordination and it made players less flexible and more injury prone. That reasoning may sound silly now, but trust me that this was a strongly-held belief by many for a number of years. More recently, a number of analytically minded folks have taken the position that steroids help to build muscle, but not fast-twitch muscles or lower body muscles which are necessary in baseball. This site is perhaps the best known proponent of that argument. I would also lump the “HGH isn’t scientifically proven to help” theory in with this school of thought. I’m aware of both these old-school and new-school “steroids don’t help” theories, and think they are probably wrong, just for the record.
On the other hand, starting pitchers on speed? I find that bizarre. I was always under the impression that the historical use of greenies in baseball was primarily by position players dealing with the daily grind, to aid their reaction times when stepping up to the plate. Maybe also relievers, who were used more frequently in the past, and relied upon intensity and getting “up” for their the few batters they would have to face. Starting pitchers, though, have to pace themselves for long outings and are used on a regular schedule. What say you, overly-medicated, misanthropic readers? Does the use of speed by starting pitchers make sense? Was he perhaps just trying to cut weight to make himself more attractive to pro scouts?
I have exactly one friend who currently attends college. He was completely shocked when I told him that I had never used Adderall. In his opinion, everyone in college uses it during exam season, or when they have a big paper, due, or whenever else they need to actually accomplish something academically. Granted, he attends an SEC school (don’t make me retire, OV), but his impression was that it’s use is nearly universal. Is it possible that Jonathan Gray was just cramming for finals? If anything, the use makes Gray seem a little dumb; he should have known this test was coming. Other than that, I don’t see how this test should dissuade the Cubs from picking him. Keith Law has mentioned that he hears Theo prefers Gray to Mark Appel, and if that’s the case, I don’t think there is a reason to pass on him with the #2 pick.
Random Draft Notes
- The Draft starts tomorrow and runs through Saturday. We at OV will have complete “analysis” of all the Cubs picks, so stay tuned. Also check out the archives for previous takes on the top prospects.
- I have previously noted that some scouts think Appel could feasibly pitch in the Major Leagues this September. For those who were skeptical of such an aggressive timetable, note that not one but two college pitchers from the 2012 draft are currently in big league rotations. Kevin Gausman (#4 overall) has started three times for the Orioles, and Michael Wacha (#19) twice for the Cards. I’ll grant that the Cubs are likely to be less aggressive than either of these two contenders, but Appel is at least as advanced as either of those two pitchers.
- Keith Law’s latest podcast, in which he interviews Jim Callis regarding the draft, is worth a listen. Both recount the horrors of having to analyze the shocking Hayden Simpson pick on live TV.