Pondering Jon Jay recently, I've read numerous reports that a tweener-type that doesn't really fit the profile of an everyday regular outfielder. Despite all this, he's in the Cardinal top 10 for nearly every prospect ranking system out there, as his batting numbers have been nothing short of spectacular. In his 3 seasons at the University of Miami Jay hit .378, and in his pro debut he hit .342 at low A. Some within the Cardinal organization talk him up as a future batting title winner, but outside of John Sickels almost all the other prognosticators see him as the team's future 4th outfielder. Hoping the Cardinals didn't pick a guy strictly for his college stats, I wanted some answers. Baseball America shed some light regarding the doubts, saying "Jay pumps his hands and uses a wide stance at the plate, quirky habits that scared off some scouts but haven't hurt him yet. He does have some length to his swing, which could create problems at higher levels." I like BA, but that answer left me unsatisfied.
While I am no scout, I went ahead and dug up Jay's video from draft day for a look. The described quirkiness was there, complete with fist pump and wide stance, but not really much as far as length to his swing as I could tell. I wanted to know how badly that would effect his game in reality. Enter Jeff Albert, hitting instructor and writer for Baseball Analyst's "Hitter's Eye" column, and his own website swingtraining.net. I emailed Jeff with the concerns I've heard about Jay, and he very graciously came up with a comparison of swings with a player I did not expect-Carlos Beltran. Of course that got me excited, Here's the video of the two swings:
Here is Jeff's comments regarding Jay:
My initial impression from Jay's video is that he has a pretty good swing to
accomplish what he does, which is using his speed to hit for high average. I wonder
if this swing developed from an effort to keep the ball out of the air in
effort to utilize his speed.
Realize that stacking up to Beltran is a tall task, but they are similar
height/weight/position and these swings matched up well. Beltran's swing is
overall much more efficient. First thing I notice is the set up where Jay is
more back on his rear leg, and Beltran is about 50-50. This shows up as Jay
gets into his forward shift much earlier than Beltran. Starting the move
earlier does not really mean that Jay won't get as long of a look at the
ball as Beltran, it just indicates that Beltran has a quicker load-unload
process with his swing.
As far as the height of Jay's hands, it does add length to his swing in
the sense that he does have to compensate being his hands are forward slightly earlier than Beltran, but I would not categorize Jay as the typical long swing. If
anything, Jay has to be quicker in order to make up for the extra distance, as
his hands start further up than Beltran's yet still make contact at
the same time. Generally speaking, this would be a good thing, however Jay
is getting the hands to the ball using mostly his arms, and losing out on
the opportunity to transfer rotational momentum into contact. The hands
swing serves him and plenty of others well in terms of making contact, but
as far as really maximizing contact and power, this will be a tough method
to use. The decision of how to address the problem (if that is what you
want to call it) becomes a matter of goals and preference. Perhaps Jay and
the organization and perfectly happy with his progress, that's their
The last place this difference shows up is in the frames right before and
after contact. Jay is pushing more into contact which costs bat speed right
before contact. Beltran turns the knob of the bat around much more quickly
and abruptly, which really gets the bat head around in a hurry and creates
that look of having quick wrists.
I like Jay in the sense that he has a good base to work with. He apparently
has a good idea of what it takes to get the barrel to the ball quickly,
which is always a good starting point. Side-by-side to Beltran just shows
Jay has some room for improvement, which is a very good thing in my opinion.
So there you have it. Jay has a lot to work with and he's got a lot going for him already. He probably will not hit for much power, but Jeff indicates perhaps he could if he wanted to make the necessary adjustments. Right now, Jay's game is spraying liners to all fields and running like hell. Over his college and short pro career he's shown an advanced command of the strike zone by walking more then striking out. With this in mind and the results he's achieved so far, I respectfully disagree with the 4th outfielder label. Perhaps he is that future batting champ the Cardinal brass forecasted, who knows for sure? In my opinion, it's way too early to dismiss him as a role player and nothing more. Huge thank you to Jeff Albert for breaking this down for us.