With Ryan Ludwick headed to San Diego as part of a three-team swap that netted St. Louis Jake Westbrook, Jon Jay‘s role with the Cards will expand. The 25-year-old’s big league career is off to a scorching start — in 130 plate appearances, Jay’s bat has already been worth +11 runs. What’s the Chief Justice’s fantasy value? Let’s take a look.
Jay was selected out of Miami in the second round of the 2006 amateur draft. At the time, Baseball America described the lefty hitter as “a classic tweener outfielder who doesn’t profile as an everyday player on a championship club.” BA lauded his plate approach, but lamented the lack of “leverage and loft” in his swing. Jay began his pro career in the Low-A Midwest League that summer, and he did what you’d expect a second-team All American to do against less experienced hurlers — he raked (.342/.416/.462 in 268 PA).
Unfortunately, Jay wouldn’t get much of a chance to build upon that robust beginning — in 2007, he hit the DL three times. Jay was shelved twice with a shoulder injury and also became a spectator due to a wrist ailment. His hitting suffered, as Jay put up a .265/.328/.387 line in 253 PA split between the High-A Florida State League and the Double-A Texas League. He walked in 6.3% of his PA, while striking out 19.6% and posting a .122 ISO. BA noted that scouts were skeptical about his ability to hit at the upper levels of the minors, disliking his “quirky hand pumps and bat waggles at the plate.”
The next season, however, Jay’s prospect status recovered. In 491 PA spent mostly in the Texas League (he got a late-season promotion to the Triple-A Pacific Coast League), the Founding Father batted .312/.382/.463. Jay’s walk rate climbed to a decent 9.2%, whiffing 13% and improving his ISO to 151. He returned to the PCL in 2009, where hit slashed .281/.338/.394 in 564 PA. Prior to getting the big league call-up in late April, Jay hit .321/.394/.491 in 191 PCL PA. His overall line in 819 PA at the Triple-A level is .295/.356/.424, with a seven percent rate of free passes taken, a 13.2 K% and a .129 ISO.
Jay’s got a smoldering .382/.433/.583 big league line and a .425 wOBA, but it’s wise not to get overly excited. Putting aside that more than 43% of his balls put in play have fallen for hits so far, Jay’s minor league track record isn’t all that distinguished. He’s not especially patient at the dish, and as his .131 league ISO and near-50% ground ball rate on the farm suggest, his power potential is limited. With St. Louis, he might eventually end up platooned with Allen Craig — Jay’s career line against lefties in the minors is .259/.336/.349 (Craig’s is .303/.358/.542).
That’s not to say that Jay is without his uses, as Sean Smith‘s Total Zone suggests Jay would be a plus defender in an outfielder corner, and CHONE projects that he’ll hit .288/.347/.425 in the majors. For fantasy purposes, Jay looks more like a solid major leaguer who’ll need a caddy against same-handed pitching than a breakout star.
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