Taken at No. 6, hard-throwing Illinois lefty 'absolutely thrilled' to join organization
By Rhett Bollinger
MINNEAPOLIS -- With the No. 6 overall pick in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft on Monday, the Twins selected left-hander Tyler Jay from the University of Illinois.
Jay, ranked as the No. 9 overall Draft prospect by MLBPipeline.com, went 5-2 with a 1.08 ERA in 30 appearances with Illinois this season. He struck out 76 and walked seven in 66 1/3 innings. The 21-year-old made his second start of the season Monday, giving up four runs over 6 1/3 innings in a loss to Vanderbilt that ended Illinois' season in the NCAA Super Regionals.
The Twins had one more pick on Day 1, taking University of Kentucky right-hander Kyle Cody with the No. 73 overall pick in the Competitive Balance B round. They lost their second-round pick because they signed right-hander Ervin Santana this offseason.
The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
"We got the guy we wanted," Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said of Jay. "He's got a power arm. He's left-handed, which we don't have a lot of in our system. So I think we got lucky in adding some impact from the left side. I'm sure there are questions if this kid can start or not, but we definitely believe he's got a legitimate chance to start."
Jay, a native of Lemont, Ill., said he's excited to join the organization, as he's pitched at Target Field in the Big Ten Tournament the last two seasons. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder said he has a fastball that ranges from 92-95 mph, a power slider at 87-89, a curveball at 79-81 and a changeup at 85-86.
"I'm absolutely thrilled," Jay said. "I've been fortunate enough to pitch at that diamond the Twins have the last couple times in the Big Ten Tournament. I love the ballpark. It plays real deep. I couldn't be more excited."
Jay posted a 1.68 ERA during his three years at Illinois, but made just two starts. The Twins could decide to keep him in relief this season and move him up the system quickly, but they still believe he'll eventually be a starter. Johnson said he couldn't predict how quickly he'll reach the Majors, but has heard the comparisons to Royals lefty Brandon Finnegan, who pitched in relief in the big leagues last year after being drafted, but is being groomed as a starter this year.
"It's kind of an unknown," Johnson said. "It's kind of uncharted as a starter for him. We'll see how he develops this summer. But he's fairly advanced whether he's a starter or reliever. He's got a good slider, a plus-fastball and throws strikes."
Jay said he's open to whatever the Twins ask of him, but said he'd like to see what he can do as a starter as a professional.
"I definitely see myself doing that," Jay said. "I'm thankful to my coaches I was able to start today. Hopefully it showcases something I can do, especially with more reps and experience doing it."
Minnesota has $3,890,000 available for its first pick and isn't expected to have any issues signing him, Johnson said.
It marked the first time the Twins selected a college pitcher with their first pick since taking Ohio State right-hander Alex Wimmers with the No. 21 overall pick in 2010.