Tyler Jay | LHP
Jay, 21, went undrafted out of an Illinois high school in 2012 and landed at the University of Illinois, where he’s been working in relief since the first day he stepped on campus. He has a 0.73 ERA with 54 strikeouts and four walks in 49.1 innings this spring after pitching to a 2.32 ERA with a 67/23 K/BB in 62 innings his freshman and sophomore years. Jay dominated with Team USA last summer, striking out 21 batters in 16.2 innings with a 0.00 ERA.
Jay is miscast as a reliever because he has the deep repertoire and command not only to be a starter, but a potential impact starter. He sits in the mid-90s with a ton of life on his fastball as a reliever, so even if he drops into the low-90s working as a starter, Jay still has above-average velocity for a lefty with plenty of action on the pitch. He throws both a curveball and a slider — the curve is the better pitch right now because he can consistently throw it for strikes or bury it in the dirt for swings and misses, but the slider has flashed put-away potential through the years as well — and also has a changeup, though its development has lagged because he doesn’t need it in relief. Jay, who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 185 lbs., locates everything well thanks to an easy delivery he repeats pitch after pitch.
Keith Law (subs. req’d), MLB.com, and Baseball America rank Jay as the 16th, 19th, and 29th best prospect in this year’s draft class in their latest rankings, respectively. Jay’s college coach likely cost him several thousand dollars (maybe millions) by choosing to use him as a reliever — Jay actually started the Illini’s third game this year, pitched well (5 IP, 0 R, 6 K), then was immediately moved back to the bullpen — because Jay is believed to have top five pick ability as a starter. Scouts haven’t been able to see him pitch regularly in that role though. I assume whichever team drafts Jay will give him the opportunity to start because the potential for command of four average or better pitches exists, and if the rotation doesn’t work out, he can always go back to the bullpen and resume being a shutdown reliever. The Yankees pick 16th and 30th this year and Jay’s combination of polish and upside seems right up their alley.