PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - FEBRUARY 27: Jon Jay #19 of the St. Louis Cardinals bats against the New York Mets at Tradition Field on February 27, 2013 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images) By Chris Trotman
St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay, right, talks to manager Mike Matheny during spring training baseball, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) By Julio Cortez
St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay holds a bat while posing during the team's photo day at spring training baseball, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) By Julio Cortez
He's not the biggest. He's not the strongest. He's not the fastest. Heck, he's not even the most athletic guy you'll ever see.
Indeed, Jon Jay - at a mere 5'11" and 200 lbs - isn't going to light up a workout because the man's such a perfect physical specimen.
The Miami native is what he is. And he's a darn good baseball player.
Jay was selected in the second round of the 2006 draft and worked his way, quite methodically, up the system. He simply did what he's always done. Hit. Hit .300 and hit .300 some more while doing all the little things that help your team win.
All the while Jay watched other outfielders get promoted ahead of him. Shane Robinson kept moving up to levels before he did. Colby Rasmus did the same.
Even once Jay reached the majors in 2010 he always played second fiddle to Rasmus. And why? Oh, that's right. Rasmus was a former first round pick - the beginning of the "Jeff Luhnow Era" in drafting - and has all those tools we spoke of before. Rasmus is bigger, Rasmus is stronger, Rasmus is faster, Rasmus lights up a workout because of his physical characteristics.
Yet it took all the way until the trade deadline in 2011 for the Cardinals to finally come to the conclusion that Jon Jay, despite all his physical limitations compared to Rasmus, was simply a better baseball player. Point blank.
Once Rasmus was traded and Jay was installed as the official starting center fielder, the former second round pick hasn't looked back. He hit .305 with a .373 on-base percentage in 2012 on his way to a career best 3.2 WAR (wins above replacement).
Jay was in serious contention for a Gold Glove as well due to some spectacular catches in center. He's taken the role of "quarterback" in the outfield and run with it. He runs the bases well. He makes the little things happen that don't show up in standard workouts.
Many in Cardinal Nation are enthralled with the idea of Oscar Taveras taking over in center field because he is the next top prospect who has the ability to hit a lot of home runs (something Jay will never do) and that would open up right field for Allen Craig and 1st base for Matt Adams.
That sounds good in theory. But practically, fans wouldn't realize how valuable Jay is until he was gone.
Jon Jay is the Cardinals' center fielder from now until the day the economics of baseball take him out of St. Louis.