The vast majority of CFs are of the No. 8 hitter bunting variety. So I was surprised to see so many excited about the St. Louis Cardinals‘ Peter Bourjos supplanting Jon Jay when most major metrics were either very similar or leaned to Jay. Ah, the power of hype rears its head once again. Bourjos is a slap hitter, delicate with below average power. He might have a bit more speed than Jay, but nowhere near the pop potential and certainly nothing approaching Jay’s durability. Truth is, if the Cardinals do trade Jay they will be making a horrible mistake in terms of clubhouse chemistry and the fact that the club would have traded away its best CF.
What is most interesting about Jay is his untapped power potential. Like many left-handed hitters, he has a powerful, but somewhat erratic uppercut to his swing. This makes him pop up some, but even so, he has been consistent with his development. Notable too is the caliber of player he projects to be — a solidly above average producer by the name of Steve Finley. If it has slipped your mind or you don’t know the name, Finley was a thin singles hitter when he arrived to the bigs, but as he filled out his power blended with his swing and he became a formidable force in the lineup, especially for the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks, the latter of which he helped lead to a title.
The numbers between the two are shockingly similar — be it BABIP or isolated power, OPS, power through their respective age 28 seasons. The overlays are nearly perfect. So perfect, in fact, that in each player’s age 28 season their batting averages are within ten points, .266 for Finley, .276 for Jay. Finley’s career OPS is a solid .775 and Jay’s is .757. Jay is already showing signs of unleashing a power stroke and has a wealth of respect, experience and a solid reservoir of talent to further develop. Thus far this season in limited action, Jay’s line-drive percentage is way up, indicative of a lefty who has figured out how to hit for power without dipping the back shoulder too frequently.
I am of the firm belief that Jay will continue to develop his power stroke, and given the opportunity become a consistent 20-25 hr guy with 80 plus RBIs and solid defense, giving any club that has him a potential 5 WAR player and any club that loses him regret. Jay is just now entering the peak of his physical prime, and it would be a shame to see him waste it on the bench for the likes of Bourjos — a stat geek’s obsession whose value is a myth. Sabremetricians would be wise to remember that games are not won with computer models; they are won with heart, grit, talent and leadership. A good rule of thumb is when all else fails in an effort to evaluate a player’s worth, check for jewelry.
Jon Jay will be happy to show you his.