Monday, September 10, 2012
Jay Growing Into Leadoff Role
Rafael Furcal began the season as the Cardinals leadoff hitter, and he excelled at it in the first couple of months. He started wearing down in midseason and fell into a slump, and was dropped down the order. Now, Furcal is out for the year. Manager Mike Matheny didn't have many other options for the leadoff spot. He tried Skip Schumaker and even Daniel Descalso in that role, but neither did that well. It became obvious that Jon Jay was the best option after Furcal. Jay had primarily been a #2 hitter, or a bottom of the lineup hitter before.
Jay has taken a liking to the leadoff spot, and works the pitcher deep into counts. In 31 games as the Cardinals leadoff hitter, Jay has hit .352 with a .424 on base percentage. Jay had a terrific August, batting .355 for the month. He also hit 12 extra base hits, which was as many as he had for the season before August. Jay started the year off hot, but suffered an injury colliding into the wall in late April. Jay later went on the disabled list, missing most of May and June. Jay slumped in July, only batting .227, but he got it back together in August.
Jay hasn't let up in September, he is batting .441 in 8 games. Jay has also greatly improved his baserunning and became a stolen base threat. This year, he leads the ballclub with 16 steals and he has only been caught 4 times. Jay could become the first Cardinal to steal 20 bases since Cesar Izturis in 2008. Jay wasn't very successful at basestealing in his first two seasons, only going 8 for 19 in stolen base attempts. He has worked at improving that, and could one day steal 30 bases in a season.
Another aspect of Jay's game that has improved is his defense. He has shown more range this year, and has been taking better routes to flyballs than in past seasons. Some people had said he deserves consideration for a Gold Glove. I'm not sure if he'll win over some of the bigger names like Andrew McCutchen and Michael Bourn that patrol center, but he deserves to be in the discussion.
Last year, Jay hit 10 home runs and 24 doubles. His career slugging percentage is .422. I don't think he'll develop much more power, but he looks to be a solid .300 hitter. There's nothing wrong with that, the Cardinals have needed a good leadoff hitter for several seasons. They cleared room for him to play by trading power hitting outfielders Ryan Ludwick and Colby Rasmus in his first two seasons. It looks like Jay might be the Cardinals leadoff hitter for seasons to come. I think Jay could turn into a Shane Victorino type player.
Trevor Rosenthal looked impressive Saturday night pitching out of a bases loaded, nobody out jam. He can reach the high 90s and has filthy stuff. He'll be in the rotation someday for the Cardinals. If the Cardinals make the postseason, he should be on the roster. Shelby Miller made his major league debut last Wednesday, pitching 2 scoreless innings in relief. With Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly to go with Rosenthal and Miller, the Cardinals have plenty of young arms that could start for them next season.