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Twins Draft Preview: Tyler Jay

University of Illinois pitcher Tyler Jay starts up a lot of conversations about how he has been utilized in college. His team boasts plenty of pitching talent, but Jay is likely the best of the bunch, is left-handed, and boasts a deep starter’s repertoire and secondary skills. But for whatever reason, he has only started one game in his three year collegiate career in the Big 10.

This hasn’t stopped him from being projected high in the first round of this year’s draft however, as scouts hold little doubts about his ability to transition into a starter as a pro.
Will the allure of a power left-handed arm be too much for the Twins to pass up?

Who is this guy?

At 6’1”, 175 lbs, Jay doesn’t have the prototypical front-line pitcher’s build, but we’re all familiar with how this can idea can be misrepresented (e.g.: Jose Berrios). This hasn’t prevented him from obliterating the Big 10 since he stepped on campus, and Jay has improved his numbers substantially in every season.

As a freshman, he pitched in eighteen games and amassed 20.1 innings out of the pen with a 3.10 ERA. As a sophomore, Jay assumed the closer role and appeared in twenty-three games, totaling 41.2 innings. He racked up ten saves, and lowered his season ERA to 1.94. This season as a junior, he put a large stamp on his amateur career. He reduced his ERA even further to a ridiculous 0.64, and racked up thirteen saves in twenty-eight appearances over 56.1 innings. He allowed just twenty-nine hits (only four for extra bases, and zero home runs) and just six walks, while striking out sixty-five. He also pitched with Team USA last summer, and didn’t surrender a run in 16.2 innings while striking out twenty-one.

For his collegiate career, he amassed a 10-5 record with twenty-three saves, 132 K’s over 118.1 innings, allowed just sixty-eight hits and twenty-nine walks, and held hitters to a .168 batting average.

Touted as an excellent athlete with smooth mechanics, there is little question that whatever MLB team drafts him will push him into a starting role, and this is before even mentioning his pitching repertoire.

He will hit mid-to-high 90s with his fastball, which has also has big arm-side run as a left-hander. This alone would get him noticed, but his changeup, slider, and curveball all rate as above-average and flash plus at times as well (here’s a Fangraph’s post showing a “plus”-flashing change). This potential four-pitch mix combined with advanced control makes it easy to see why he has been a riser on draft boards through the year.

Why the Twins will pick him

In the past two MLB drafts, the Twins front office has taken a bit of an unorthodox approach by targeting big time arms early in the draft, most of who pitched out of bullpens in college, with the intent to see if they could handle starting games instead of finishing them. I’ve already mentioned the parallels Jay holds with the Twins in that regard.

Since Brad Radke fronted starting rotations for Twins, they've also fallen in love with pitchers with advanced command and control, allowing them to limit walks. Jay is considered to have some of the best control in this draft, if not the best, with Keith Law of ESPN rating it as “plus-plus.”(Insider required)

Add the fact that he is left-handed, andarea where some might say the Twins are lacking high-upside pitching prospects, and Jay’s appeal to the Twins is even greater.

Why the Twins will not pick him

As mentioned, many evaluators believe Jay has been miscast in his role as a reliever with the Illini. In the same column above, Law goes so far as to opine “He would have been a top-five pick had he been used as a starter all year and he continued to show the kind of stuff he has in his longest relief outings this spring.” This usage as a reliever has made him hard to consistently scout, so a team like the Twins picking at number six, might not be confident enough in their evaluations to pull the trigger on him that high.

He also gets nailed for being undersized, would likely lose a few ticks on his fastball as a starter, and there would be questions about his endurance to pitch more innings until he does so.

Most problematic of all could be his recent movement into the top five on draft boards, with Kiley McDaniel of Fangraph's latest mock sending him to Colorado at number three. As amazing as it sounds compared to just a few weeks ago, he might not be available.

Even if he were to falter as a starter, Jay’s current profile reads a lot like a certain All-Star lefty locking down the Twins major league bullpen right now. Whether a future looking something like Glen Perkins is enough for Minnesota to pick at number six may be the question when it comes to selecting, or not, Tyler Jay on June 8th.


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14 Comments

Seth- if Jay was the pick for the Twins, any chance they would use him like the Royals did with Finnegan last year (this year only). Where would you start him? Chattanooga?
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Captain Hindsight
May 29 2015 09:21 PM

I am fine with the Twins taking college relievers with good stuff and trying to convert them to starters, but not that high in the draft. If the Twins were going to take that much of a risk that early I would rather they take Brady Aiken. Not only is there questions whether Jay's stuff would remain the same but there is also the risk of how his arm holds up with a starters workload especially with a smaller frame. 

 

“He would have been a top-five pick had he been used as a starter all year and he continued to show the kind of stuff he has in his longest relief outings this spring.”

 

That is a tremendous insight by Law. Basically saying if his two biggest question marks were answered, he would be a high pick. Seems like you could make a similar statement about a lot of players. 

    • Seth Stohs likes this

 

Seth- if Jay was the pick for the Twins, any chance they would use him like the Royals did with Finnegan last year (this year only). Where would you start him? Chattanooga?

 

Tyler Jay would be my pick, right after Alex Bregman.

 

I think he has the ability to help a major league team out of the bullpen in his first season, much like Finnegan did last year. Probably would need to start at Fort Myers or Chattanooga for a short period of time. Would love to see Jay and Alex Meyer setting up Perkins in a pennant race late this season.

 

Next year the Twins could start the transition of developing Jay into a starter.

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Willihammer
May 29 2015 10:13 PM

If this guy has 3-4 above average pitches, why the heck isn't he starting?

    • twinssouth likes this
I'd be in full favor of Jay were he available at 6. As previously stated, I believe this is the perfect time for the Twins to pick the ONE pitcher, preferably LH, that has the highest upside in the draft and take their shot.

We dont have a second round pick to "back up" our first rounder. And I'm ok with that. But we are probably done with top 10 picks for a while too. Jay, Alien, whoever...just take that pitcher with the biggest payoff and trust your scouts and coaches. I just hope that one guy van also be LH.
    • curt1965 likes this

 

Seth- if Jay was the pick for the Twins, any chance they would use him like the Royals did with Finnegan last year (this year only). Where would you start him? Chattanooga?

 

If the Twins are competing in August, maybe he gets called up, but I doubt it. They have Jones, Burdi and Chargois in AA already and Tonkin, Achter and Oliveros at AAA. 

 

Jay hasn't done much starting. I think they'd start him out in E-Town for 3-4 short starts and and then get him to Cedar Rapids. The goal for this year won't be to push him too much, too fast. It'll be to keep him healthy so that he can start next season in Ft. Myers.

 

(This is all my guess)

Multiple plus pitches and great command. Left handed. I think you take that at 6. I hope he is there. And I also hope he does not fall to the white sox at 8. I don't want any more lefties with sick stuff haunting us.
If you're going to take a chance on Jay, why not just take Aiken. Sure worked out great for the Nationals when they took Giollto (sp). When drafted, they knew he needed Tommy John, now he's the top rated pitcher in Minors. Aiken has 4 pitch mix, backed with high heat, was last year's 1st pick, I'd jump all over it.
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Jeremy Nygaard
May 30 2015 03:52 PM

Seth- if Jay was the pick for the Twins, any chance they would use him like the Royals did with Finnegan last year (this year only). Where would you start him? Chattanooga?

 

Can't speak for the Twins specifically, but I would think whoever drafts Jay will have this plan in mind. While he hasn't started, he threw many more innings than a typical closer.

This seems like a projection.Do not mind it, but have concerns here.Could work out, but is that what the Twins want from there last high pick(hopefully for years)

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drivlikejehu
May 31 2015 08:37 AM

 

If this guy has 3-4 above average pitches, why the heck isn't he starting?

 

College coaches can be weird. Illinois is 48-8-1, so their coach must have some idea what he's doing, but I don't think it means much in terms of Jay's potential.

 

Dillon Tate wasn't in the rotation going into UC-Santa Barbara's season until one of their starters got hurt. 

The bright side of Tate pitching out of the pen is that he's not getting overworked like a lot of college coaches tend to do to their top starters.  The more I learn about Jay, the more comfortable I become with the prospects of the Twins picking him at number 6.   

 

If you're going to take a chance on Jay, why not just take Aiken. Sure worked out great for the Nationals when they took Giollto (sp). When drafted, they knew he needed Tommy John, now he's the top rated pitcher in Minors. Aiken has 4 pitch mix, backed with high heat, was last year's 1st pick, I'd jump all over it.

 

I think Aiken's medicals are far more problematic than Giolito's were. There's a lot more going on with his arm than just Tommy John surgery from what I've gathered.

 

That is a tremendous insight by Law. Basically saying if his two biggest question marks were answered, he would be a high pick. Seems like you could make a similar statement about a lot of players. 

 

I think all Law was saying with this, as echoed elsewhere in the article, is there hasn't really been any good reason demonstrated why Jay was not starting.

 

But Jeremy is right as well, and I didn't really mention this in the article, that Jay has been used for more than just a single inning most of the time. And in the game he did start this season, he went 5 innings, allowed no runs on two hits, and struck out six. This is the idea they are talking about. He had shown he can maintain starter-like effectiveness, so why not use him as one?

I've also read elsewhere, that the Illini coaches think his mentality is built better for the closer role, than the other guys they have starting (who are also quite good, mind you). So that could be your answer to that question.


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