With the regular season and Postseason now in the books, the Minnesota Twins are joined by every other major league team in the offseason. Joe Mauer is a free agent for the first time in his career, and the front office has plenty of 40 man roster decisions to make. Prior to bringing in new talent the organization must decide who will be kept from within. At this juncture, there's a very real possibility a first round pick could see his time come to an end.
Recently on Twins Daily, Seth Stohs did a great job highlighting the minor leaguers with impending 40 man additions looming. Although the Twins don't have much in the form of guaranteed adds, there's a couple of big name prospects that are part of the group. Nick Gordon and LaMonte Wade will certainly be added to the 40 man roster, but there's zero certainties given to former 6th overall pick Tyler Jay.
Set to follow in the footsteps of Phil Hughes and Matt Harvey, Jay was destined for surgery to address Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. After getting in just 11.2 IP during 2017, Jay opted to pass on the surgical route and believed rest and rehab had addressed the issue. Returning for Arizona Fall League action, Jay got in 9.2 innings before his offseason began. In 2018 Jay returned to Double-A and spent the entire season there. Pitching just shy of 60 innings, he turned in a lackluster 4.22 ERA that was bolstered by a career worst 7.4 K/9.
Selected by Terry Ryan in the 2015 Major League Draft, Jay looked like an odd fit from the get go. He was a dominant closer at the University of Illinois, but had never worked as a starter, and the frame didn't suggest great things would be in store. Ryan had made a habit of going with relievers early in drafts during the final years of his tenure as Minnesota's GM, but the track record in developing them was poor at best.
Prior to the front office change the Twins attempted to work Jay as a starter. He made just 18 starts, and while the numbers weren't bad, the quality of his stuff sagged across the board. As a reliever the velocity and strikeouts were his best assets, but the unfortunate shoulder issues changed things significantly as well.
At this point in the game shoulder problems are significantly more damning to the effectiveness a pitcher will display as their career continues. While Tommy John surgery carries the name recognition and the lengthy timetable, the reality is that it's a standard operation and pretty well understood. Shoulders and the injuries related to them, are a much bigger wildcard, and we see a minefield of guys that will look back and wonder what could've been.
It's really too bad that Jay is going to be at this crossroad, but the climb through minor league baseball is not an easy one. He'll be 25 next season, and hasn't been a top prospect for three years. Having relievers like Jake Reed and Nick Anderson more deserving of the roster spots, it's hard to make a case based solely on pick pedigree.
On the flip side, there is a decent possibility that the Twins may not lose Jay through the Rule 5 draft. The same hurdles in front of him for Minnesota are present anywhere else. He wasn't good last season, health remains a question mark, and jumping up to the big leagues likely doesn't provide ideal results. Another year in a system he's grown acquainted to could be a good thing for both the player and the organization.
Looking back it would've been great if Terry Ryan's run on early round relievers would've worked out. It was a low ceiling with an even lower floor approach though, and it's a process that yielded projectable results. Adding Jay to the list of misses would be the final nail in the coffin, but we could certainly be embarking upon that reality soon.