Recently, Twins Daily reported that the Minnesota Twins have pulled the plug on turning 2016 6th overall raft pick Tyler Jay, into a starter. It's an unfortunate outcome that makes the pick look much worse off than what it was originally perceived, but at this point it's also representative of what was, and what is now. As the rest of Jay's narrative plays out, he'll be looked at through at a very unique lens.
When selected 6th overall in the 2015 draft, there was plenty of concern over the pick immediately. Jay was a college reliever for the University of Illinois, and starting had never been something he'd done. His stuff was electric, and he was viewed as a potential quick riser as a reliever, but the peripherals really didn't suggest he could start. Then there was the reality that in selecting Jay, Minnesota declined to draft Andrew benintendi, Carson Fulmer, Ian Happ, James Kaprielian, or Walker Buehler. The list of those they past on, is simply much more impressive than the guy they took at this point.
Making the commitment to use Jay as a reliever full time, the Twins new regime has noted they are playing with house money. It was Terry Ryan as General Manager when Jay was selected, and it was his vision that he could be cast as a starter. Instead of sharing in that belief (and one that hadn't produced great results), both Derek Falvey and Thad Levine saw a way to get value, and in a more immediate fashion.
There's always been a pretty solid belief that Tyler Jay can be a good big league reliever. He was a closer in college, and his fastball and slider combination has seemed deadly out of the pen. Over his final 12 games in relief during the 2015 season, Jay worked 11.2 IP and owned a 1.54 ERA in which he allowed opposing hitters just a .505 OPS. During his pro debut being used solely in relief, Jay generated 10.8 K/9.
No matter how good of a reliever Jay becomes though, he almost certainly will never be able to justify the mistake that Terry Ryan made. That's something that Falvey and Levine have seemingly come to grips with, and decided it wasn't their problem. In using Jay as a reliever, he can more quickly help the Twins pen, and should be an option as early as midway through the 2017 season.
Although the Twins have strong relief arms in the form of Jake Reed, Nick Burdi, and J.T. Chargois, none of them were first round selections. Looking at elite bullpen arms such as Zach Britton and Andrew Miller, you find two failed big league starters that both began nearly 50 games at the highest level. Both became full time relievers at their age 26 and 27 seasons respectively, and it seems Minnesota is going to get a jumpstart on their guy.
Right now, Tyler Jay is just nearing his 23rd birthday. He's got a very realistic chance to debut in the big leagues not long after, and he could quickly find himself pitching in high leverage situations. Sure, that's not the result anyone wanted from that high of a pick, but the new regime has been given the keys to a solid bet on a fix for the pen, and they're turning the ignition over on him.
My guess would be that Jay pitches at Double-A Chattanooga to start the year, with a brief cameo in Rochester prior to his debut. I don't know that he'll beat Jake Reed to the big leagues, but given Nick Burdi's lost 2016, Jay could overtake him. At any rate, the Twins getting an influx of arms like Reed, Jay, Burdi, and Mason Melotakis in relief this season is a very good thing.
Tyler Jay wasn't a pick made by the current regime, and it's very likely he isn't the guy they would've wanted. Instead of committing to slow process with a high washout rate until he's about 26, Minnesota is cashing in now. Jay won't have to be the failed starter going to some other team and latching on as a strong reliever, he can do that for his new bosses. There's a pretty good blueprint for a lefty that owns a good slider and fastball combination, and he also happened to be the 6th overall pick. His name, the aforementioned Andrew Miller.