With the sixth overall pick in the 2015 MLB First Year Player Draft, the Minnesota Twins selected left hand pitcher Tyler Jay from the University of Illinois. Jay is a 6’1”, 180-pound junior from Lemont, IL. With the pick, Jay also becomes the highest-drafted player in school history for the Illini.
On Monday evening, the draft news breaking for Jay was somewhat bittersweet. Jay was the losing pitcher in an NCAA Super Regional game against Vanderbilt that ended the season for Illinois. In the game, Jay went 6.1 innings, allowing four runs and zero walks while striking out six batters. One of the runs given up by Jay was a solo home run to Dansby Swanson, the number one overall pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
For the season, Jay finished with a 1.48 ERA, five wins, 14 saves, and 76 strikeouts in 66.2 innings pitched. He was also named Big 10 Pitcher of the Year. The 2015 season was a record-breaking, season to remember for the Fighting Illini. The team achieved their highest win total and ranking in school history, set several marks along the way, while also reaching and hosting the Super Regional round for the first time. Jay’s success certainly played a major factor in the Illini’s memorable season.
Jay himself says he models his game after former closer Billy Wagner. When watching him pitch, there is also some Chris Sale mechanics in him as well. With most pitchers, the question is do they project more for a starting role or a relief role? Coming out of the bullpen, Jay can instantly make an immediate impact for the Twins similar to what Brandon Finnegan did with the Kansas City Royals last season. While the Twins do have a top-level closer in Glen Perkins, Jay has the type of ability to become a natural closer from day one right out of college much like Huston Street did with the Oakland Athletics.
When Jay does arrive in Minnesota, he will already be accustom to the surroundings as the Big 10 conference tournament was held at Target Field earlier this season. Likely seeing the left-hander in their home ballpark may have convinced the Twins that Jay was their guy at the top of the draft board. If the Twins continue to compete in the AL Central this season, the need for pitching down the stretch could very well include Jay. Either way, the Twins were able to land one of the top collegiate arms with their pick of Tyler Jay sixth overall in this year’s draft to add to their already highly rated farm system.