I admit that I was a little bit surprised when the Cardinals called outfielder Jon Jay up from the minors. But I'm glad to see that he's finally getting a real shot to show what he can do.
While I've long been a Jay fan, it just didn't seem like the Redbirds brass was all that interested in him. I never got the sense that he received a fair chance to make the team out of spring training despite a pretty impressive college and minor league resume. Jay got only 39 at bats in Grapefruit League play while his competition for a roster spot, Joe Mather (64), Nick Stavinoha (62) and Allen Craig (60) got close to twice as many times at the plate.
Jay hit .281 last season in his first full campaign in Class AAA. He stole 20 bases in 28 tries, hit 10 homers and drove in 54 runs. In 2008 he hit .306 with 11 homers for Class AA Springfield before receiving a promotion to Memphis where he hit .345 in 58 at bats. In three years at the University of Miami, Jay averaged .378 at the plate with more than 20 stolen bases per season.
He's more than holding his own against major league pitching with a .302 batting average. He's collected several clutch hits already and hit his first major league homer Tuesday against the Reds to help get the Cardinals back into the game.
I've never see Jay fail to hustle. He runs out out every ball and makes even routing plays tough.
Less obvious is Jay's defense. On Tuesday night he made a couple of good catches. But he also does the little things that, sadly, too few major league ballplayers bother with these days. On Tuesday he hustled all the way over to centerfield on an easy pop up to back up Colby Rasmus -- just in case. Rasmus one handed the ball as is his custom then seem surprised to see Jay standing 10 feet from him after he caught the ball and tossed it back in.
I think the knock on Jay is that he is relatively small -- about 5-10 -- and isn't really thought of as a power guy. But he seems like a heckuva nice option for a fourth outfielder in the short term with the potential upside of becoming a leadoff hitter in the future. Jay wouldn't be your typical right fielder. But he has a nice throwing arm that could make him serviceable as a future replacement for Ryan Ludwick who wil reach free agency after next season.