DOB: 19 April 1994 (21)
6' 1" 185 lbs
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 60 | Overall: 55
Profile: Tyler Jay presents an interesting case. He is clearly the best pitcher on a team absolutely stacked with talented pitching. However, his elite mental makeup and his unique flexibility to do anything when it comes to pitching have led to him being used as the team's closer rather than a starter. This, despite Jay possessing a starter's repertoire of four usable pitches. Jay's fastball sits 93-95, having been clocked touching 98 when he lets it fly. He also has very good command of it, able to hit his spots with great frequency, though he tends to leave the ball up as he tires - which is nothing unusual. He has a wipeout slider that has been used with great results, and also possess both a hard curve and a usable change that both project to be at least MLB average pitches. Jay's delivery is fluid and repeatable and shows no signs of cross-body throwing that others in the draft possess. Despite being a closer, Jay has seen an outing of six innings, and has also pitched more than three outs in consecutive nights, so he is not entirely unfamiliar with having to work through arm fatigue.
Pros: Jay is the best healthy left-handed pitcher in the draft and is arguably the best healthy pitcher overall. With four usable pitches, two of them of the plus variety, Jay has the makings of either a possible TOR arm at best, or an elite level closer. The lack of innings on Jay's arm this season could also allow the team that drafts him to be aggressive with his placement after the draft.
Cons: Jay has been a reliever for long enough now that there have to be some concerns about how well he will transition to starting. If the Diamondbacks are taking Jay at 1-1, there is no question the plan is to make him a starter. While the lack of innings on Jay's arm allow aggressive assignment of Jay, that works best if he is being used as a reliever. By the time he would arrive with the Diamondbacks, Jay will likely have about 70 innings on his arm this year. The team could probably get another 30 innings out of him without much concern. Unfortunately, that puts Jay on a slower path to the majors than most college arms. While pitching as a reliever could bring Jay to the big leagues as soon as this September, converting to a starter and making the bigs is likely a three season affair, and that's assuming that he performs well without stumbling at any level.
The Take: If the Diamondbacks are taking a pitcher 1-1, they need to be taking a starter. While I agree that Jay has the tools to start, I am a bit concerned how well they will hold up once the innings start to pile up and the rest falls to four days between outings. With the alternate path of an elite, late-inning reliever, the TOR ceiling is appealing. However, the #4/5 starter/long relief floor is tough to ignore, as is the fact that Jay will take an extra season to develop over other college arms already accustomed to starting. The deeper the Illini go in the postseason, the more Jay is going to get a chance to improve his draft stock. If he can shut down the likes of Dansby Swanson and Vanderbilt, then the possibility of Jay making a very strong push for 1-1 exists. If the team truly believes he can be converted to a starter, he will be hard to ignore.