It’s time to decompress the 2018 season for each of the Arizona Diamondbacks in turn, to place their season in the proper context of their career whole and to reduce their season efforts – why not – to a single letter grade. Today’s player: Jon Jay.
Though his time in the desert was short, Jon Jay earned a surprising top-3 finish for a Gold Glove award after the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired him in a mid-season trade from the Kansas City Royals. Before we dig any further into Jay’s 2018, let’s quickly recap his career before this season.
Jon Jay’s final two seasons with the team that drafted him (St. Louis Cardinals) was 2014 and 2015, two seasons that, when juxtaposed, represent the best and worst of Jon Jay.
They also mark the end of an era. 2014 marks the end of “Jon Jay, starting OF”, while 2015 begins the era of “Jon Jay, 4th outfielder.”
When Jay was at his finest, he had above average contact skills, solid baserunning, sure-handed, versatile and unspectacular outfield defense, no power whatsoever, and all of it – this part is important – at a bargain rate.
In just about every area, Jay provides remarkable consistency. In his nine professional seasons:
- his K% lands between 15% and 17% in five of nine seasons with a career mark of 16.5%
- his batting average lands between .275 and .305 in seven of nine seasons with a career mark of .285
- his OBP lands between .325 and .375 in every season but one with a career mark of .352
- his salary in the five seasons since he became arbitration eligible has never been less than $3MM and never more than $8MM
In St. Louis, Jay’s penultimate season of arbitration eligibility was marred by wrist issues that lingered from offseason surgery. For the Cardinals that season, Matt Holliday was locked into one corner and Jason Heyward the other, which left Jay in a dogfight with Randal Grichuk and Peter Bourjos for playing time in center.
After the season, the Cards would trade Jay to the Padres, but first he had to live through a career-worst season. For context, Jay’s first five seasons with the Cardinals produced a wRC+ of 116, 115, 115, 103, 115; in 2015 he bottomed out at an abysmal 58 wRC+ – the 8th worst mark among NL players with at least 200 at bats.