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Rookie Review: Jon Jay, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

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Rookie Profile: Jon Jay

Here is a profile of St. Louis Cardinals rookie outfielder Jon Jay, currently hitting .387/.437/.624 in 44 games for the Cardinals.

Jon Jay was drafted by the Cardinals in the second round of the 2006 draft, from the University of Miami-Florida. He hit well in college against good competition (.361/.490/.520 his junior year with 31 steals), but scouts doubted his power with wooden bats and had some questions about his swing mechanics. That was enough to keep him out of the first round. He was sent directly to Quad Cities in the Midwest League to begin his career, skipping the short-season levels, and raked from the start, hitting .342/.416/.462 with a 28/27 BB/K in 234 at-bats. I saw him play for the River Bandits and was very impressed with his feel for the strike zone. I also felt he had more power in the bat than most people thought, and gave him a Grade B in the 2007 book.

Injuries attacked in 2007: he was hampered by wrist and shoulder injuries all season and looked like a player in a great deal of pain most of the time. He hit .286/.321/.397 in 32 games for High-A Palm Beach, and just .235/.333/.373 in 26 games for Double-A Springfield. I saw him play at the latter level and he just didn't look right; his bat was slower and he was having some problems turning on pitches. I gave him a partial injury mulligan, lowering his rating to a Grade C+ but writing that if he was healthy he could rebound strongly.

Jay was healthy in 2008 and played 96 games for Springfield, hitting .306/.379/.457 with a 39/46 BB/K in 372 at-bats, with 11 homers. He looked great in a late Triple-A trial, hitting .345/.406/.500 in 16 contests. He had the zip in his bat back, was starting to show more distance power, and still had the refined approach. I also felt his defense was underrated. HIs arm wasn't great, but he had good running speed and seemed to track balls very well. I gave him a Grade B-, writing that "at worst he's a solid fourth outfielder" but that he could start for some teams.

Jay played 2009 with Triple-A Memphis, hitting .281/.338/.394, with 20 steals, 34 walks, and 64 strikeouts in 505 at-bats. This was OK but not great performance; he did manage 10 homers, but with a SLG below .400 he looked very much like a "tweener" type.  I was starting to lose some of my enthusiasm, but still gave him a positive review in the book this year. "He makes contact, will surprise you with his power, can bunt if you need him to, can steal a base, is fundamentally sound in most respects, and is an underrated and effective defensive outfielder. . .he always seems to go 3-for-4 when I see him play." I gave him another C+, projecting that he'd be a fine fourth outfielder once he got a chance.

He hit .321/.394/.491 in 42 games for Memphis this spring, and as stated he's at .387/.437/.624 so far for the Cardinals. I don't think that will last; I think he's been lucky so far, but I still like him. I see him as a guy who is "programmed" if you will as a .275-.295 hitter, with a decent walk rate and sparks of power. In a "lucky" year he can hit over .300; in an unlucky year he'd hit .260.  Overall I think he will have a long career, as a fourth outfielder and occasional starter. If he has a power spike in his late 20s, he could end up better than that, perhaps something like Mike Greenwell statistically.