When Tyler Jay was taken with the sixth overall pick of the 2015 Draft, the Twins knew they could get the former University of Illinois closer to the big leagues in a hurry if they kept him in the bullpen. They also knew he could have success in a rotation
When Tyler Jay was taken with the sixth overall pick of the 2015 Draft, the Twins knew they could get the former University of Illinois closer to the big leagues in a hurry if they kept him in the bullpen. They also knew he could have success in a rotation with a potential four-pitch mix and plus command.
That potential led the organization to send Jay, now No. 8 on the system's Top 30 prospects list, out as a starter in 2016. There were some successes, like making it to Double-A in his first full season, but also some concerns, like being shut down the final month of that year because of a neck issue. So the decision was made to move him back to the bullpen, which would presumably allow him to move quickly and stay healthy.
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That didn't exactly go according to plan as Jay ended up logging just eight appearances and 11 2/3 innings as biceps tendinitis and then a shoulder impingement shelved him. Healthy once again, Jay is building himself back up and making up for lost innings by pitching in relief for the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League.
"Obviously, this year wasn't the best," Jay said. "I learned a lot, though, about myself and my body and where I need to be. After a layoff like that, you're just excited to play baseball again. It's fun to be out here.
"I feel 100 percent. There's still a little bit of a transition from being explosive for two innings instead of being more long, trying to last for seven, so it's kind of hard to find the velo. It'll be there in spurts and I feel it's all coming together again."
Jay's time on the disabled list wasn't wasted, even if he obviously would've rather been on the mound. Jay took the time to work on himself, both in terms of physical and mental strength, not to mention watching the game more intently than he has ever been able to previously.
"I felt like with the switch back to the bullpen at the time and thinking I have to get on top of that," Jay said. "The only thing I needed to do was go out there and throw and everything would've been taken care of. It did suck, but it's one thing where you learn a lot about yourself. It's [about] not being so hard on yourself all of the time, learning to kind of relax, take it day by day and really break it down. That way you can move forward.
"It's interesting. You learn a lot more about the game just sitting there. You're thinking, 'OK, when I'm back out there, this is stuff I can add' because you're always learning every single day."
As he continues to work his way back to his pre-injury standards, Jay has clearly shifted how he looks at his professional development. Perhaps in the past, he would have looked at the role switch as a negative, but after the time he has missed, he refuses to fall into that trap.
"If you look at it that way, trying to be disappointed about something, you're going to set yourself up for failure for whatever you're going to do next," Jay said. "I really just took it in stride. I like doing both, so it's not something where I was upset to be going back. It is what it is and I'm always open to doing whatever the organization thinks is best for them."
Starting allowed Jay to work on all of his pitches, and he is now much more comfortable using his changeup, a pitch he didn't need in college. That should allow him, assuming health, to perhaps jump on that fast track as a short reliever once again and help out a Twins team that surprised many by making it to the Wild Card game. But as his experience has taught him, he's trying not to look too far into the future."
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"I would like that to be the case, but with the injuries and stuff, I was really getting ahead of myself, kind of thinking way too far [ahead]," Jay said. "I just try to take it day by day now and whatever happens, happens.
"To be honest, I wasn't really surprised with how it went because I know the guys that are coming up, the guys I played with, so I think it's looking really good for us in the future.
Twins hitters in the Fall League
Sean Miller, SS/2B -- A 10th-round pick out of South Carolina-Aiken in 2015, Miller spent all of his second full season in the Class A Advanced Florida State League and finished with a .262/.299/.322 line. He split time between shortstop and second and played both well, making only 10 errors all season. He's seeing more time at second than short this fall, though he's still playing both, as he prepares for the upper levels and a potential career as a utilityman.
Chris Paul, 1B -- A wrist injury forced Paul out of action for more than two months in 2017, so he's making up for lost time with the Saguaros. The 2015 sixth-rounder out of Cal hit well when healthy, with a .328/.380/.471 line and a FSL All-Star nod. Paul has played more third than anywhere else in his career, but he's focusing mostly on his first base play this fall.
LaMonte Wade, OF (MIN No. 17) -- The University of Maryland product gets high marks for his makeup and is often labeled as an over-achiever. He's coming off a solid year in Double-A, hitting .292/.397/.408 and continues to be an on-base machine. The outfielder has a .404 career OBP and has walked (177) more times than he has struck out (151) since the Twins took him in the ninth round of the 2015 Draft.
Twins pitchers in the Fall League
Ryan Eades, RHP -- Eades had worked as a starter for the bulk of his pro career since the Twins drafted him in the second round of the 2013 Draft out of LSU. In 2017, however, he made the transition to the bullpen, something that's continued for him in the AFL. The 25-year-old right-hander did get his first Triple-A experience in 2017 and could use the Fall League as a springboard to the Twins' bullpen in 2018.
Tom Hackimer, RHP -- The Twins took Hackimer and his sidearm delivery out of St. John's in the fourth round of the 2016 Draft and he put together a very strong first full season. Pitching across two levels of A ball, the 23-year-old finished with a 1.76 ERA and .142 batting average against while striking out 10.4 per nine and recording 13 saves. Next up: the upper levels of the system.
Andrew Vasquez, LHP -- The 6-foot-6 lefty has moved slowly since the Twins took him in the 32nd round in 2015, but pitching well enough (1.55 ERA, .222 BAA, 13.2 K/9) across two levels of A ball and warranting an AFL invite is beyond expectations for a player drafted so late. He keeps the ball on the ground (2.52 GO/AO in 2017) and has been tough against lefties.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.