Twins Draft Preview: Tyler Jay
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.