Where does Jon Jay fit into this year’s Cardinals outfield?

QUESTION: With the addition of Carlos Beltran, and Allen Craig expected to eat up outfield time once his knee is healed, where does Jon Jay fit into this year’s Cardinals team?

He’s the starting center fielder until his production doesn’t merit the playing time. At that point, Beltran in center (legs permitting) and Craig in right (health permitting) becomes a more essential option for the Cardinals, and Schumaker and Jay emerge as alternatives, backups or fourth outfielders off the bench. It will be interesting to watch the second base competition unfold and how much it leaves Schumaker to appear in center this spring.

Jon Jay is the Cardinals’ regular center fielder, until further notice. It isn’t likely that Beltran will play a lot in center inasmuch as he hasn’t played there in a couple of years and Busch Stadium is a big park in the outfield.

Jay projects as the regular CF but will receive occasional breaks when Skip Schumaker or Carlos Beltran man the position. Jay led the team in games played last season and was considered no worse than average defensively. True, his postseason performance did not mirror his regular season, but Jay's offensive numbers during the regular season (.297/.344/.424) were almost a carbon of his 2011. Beltran, Craig and Lance Berkman will likely be found in right field and at first base with Craig usually seen against LH pitching.

Jay will play a LOT of center field. He played virtually every game last season and will play a lot this season.  The Cards need to keep Beltran’s bat in the lineup, so I would expect Mike Matheny to use him in center field judiciously. Jay is a solid fielder and an established .290 to .300 hitter, so he will stay busy. He may double-switch into games and do some defensive subbing, but he will play a big role. I would not be surprised if he approached 500 plate appearances again.

LARRY BOROWSKY (Founder of Viva El Birdos and editor of “Maple Street Press Cardinals Annual&rdquoWinking
He’s their best defensive CF by far. Combine that with Beltran’s stated reluctance to tax his knees in center, and Jay appears to be in line for 130 to 140 starts. Of course, that assumes he continues to hit at the levels of 2010-11. I think he’ll do that and more. If Jay should wash out, then Skip Schumaker likely gets the bulk of the playing time in CF.

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