Jon Jay proving last year was a fluke, not the start of a trend

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (BaseballSTL) -- From the day Jon Jay was drafted out of the University of Miami in the 2nd round of the 2006 MLB Draft he did nothing but hit.  It wasn’t flashy.  It wasn’t the type of swing where you’d drop your jaw and think you were watching the next Albert Pujols or even Jim Edmonds.

But he hit.  He hit .300 practically with his eyes closed.  And his defense was almost always above average.  Jay played a large role in the Cardinals trading Ryan Ludwick back in 2010 and Colby Rasmus in 2011.  

2012 was Jay’s breakout season.  He hit .305 in 443 at-bats with a .373 on-base percentage and a career high 3.2 WAR (wins above replacement).

Then 2013 happened.  It was bad.  The numbers (.276 average with a 1.5 WAR) don’t tell the entire story.  Jay got worn out by year’s end.  His defense, particularly in the postseason, was atrocious.  The downward spiral the Cardinals took offensively had as much to do with Jay’s performance as it was anyone else.  Fans were ready to exile him to Siberia in favor of almost anyone else.

Well, they got their wish in the offseason when the Cards traded for Peter Bourjos from the Angels.  That was supposed to be it for Jay.  Bourjos was going to come in and be the speedy center fielder who would at the very least play defense like Jim Edmonds and steal bases when he got on.

Something unexpected happened right out of the gate, however, in spring training.

Jay bounced back and outplayed Bourjos.  And it wasn’t even close.

This year the 29-year old from Miami is having a year that’s rivaling that breakout 2012.  Through 300 Abs he’s hitting .313 with a .385 on-base percentage and already is worth 2.5 wins above replacement.  He’ll never hit for a whole lot of power (just 15 doubles, 2 triples and 3 home runs) and he doesn’t steal bases (just 6).  

But Jay is playing terrific defense again and he’s provided some stability to center field.  That’s something this team hasn’t had since, well, his 2012 season.

Unfortunately, due to Jay’s lack of power and stolen base ability he’ll always be someone the team looks to improve upon if it can.  Should a top flight center fielder become available on the free agent market the Cards could be interested due to their flexibility with the budget.

A power hitting center fielder or at least one who steals 30-40 bases would really be nice to have.  And at Jay’s best, he’s never going to be that.  If he was going to become that he would have already by the age of 29.  

But in the time it takes the Cardinals to locate and actually pull the trigger on someone who can become the next star out in center, Jay is proving he can be a very nice complementary piece to this team.  

He’s been doing it – save for one bad season in 2013 – for a half decade.

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