Cardinals farmhand Jon Jay has had a little bit of exposure in the first three games of the spring, going 2-for-5 Saturday against the Marlins and scoring two runs.. And his play has only made me wonder even more than I already did about why people aren't higher on him.
Jay isn't a big guy at a listed 5-11 and 200 pounds. And he doesn't look like he is ever going to have much power, which could describe why some are down on him. But what Jay does offer -- that the Cardinals desperately need -- is a healthy dose of speed. And he seems to possess the skills that could eventually turn him into a high batting average, high on base percentage sort.
Cardinals prospect Jon Jay slides home safely Saturday against the Marlins. AP photo.
In his three seasons at the University of Miami, Jay's worst batting average was .361 and he had a .490 on base percentage to go along with 31 stolen bases in 66 games. He hit .342 in 2006, his first pro season in the Midwest League. In 2008 he hit .306 at Class AA Springfield before being promoted and hitting .345 in 16 games at Class AAA Memphis. In 2009 he came back to earth a little bit with a still respectable .281 batting average.
The Cardinals haven't developed a true leadoff hitter during the La Russa era, which is remarkable. The closest thing is Skip Schumaker, and while he has done a good job in the role, he's not really one of those guys pitchers just hate to face because he is always going to find a way to get on base -- and then be a pest once he gets there.
Unfortunately for Jay, the Cardinals starting outfield plans don't seem to have space for him anytime in the near future. Matt Holliday is going to be in left for the next seven years or so and Colby Rasmus is only in his second season in ceter. Ryan Ludwick is going year to year in right. But Jay isn't the sort of player who is going to project as a fourth or fifth place hitter.
A more realistic path for Jay is to prove to the Cardinals that he could be a valuable reserve outfielder capable of coming in off the bench to start a rally. But I hope the Birds seriously take a look at Jay.