Jonathan Henry Jay
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 5' 11", Weight 200 lb.
- School University of Miami
- High School Columbus High School
- Debut April 26, 2010
Jay hit .466 as a high school sophomore, .528 as a junior and .380 with 15 steals as a senior. Going on to the University of Miami, he hit .368/.458/.513 with 56 RBI and 19 steals in 26 tries in 2004; he started every game in left field as a freshman. He hit a two-out, walk-off grand slam to beat Long Beach State on May 28. Both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball named him a Freshman All-American. Jay then was 6 for 14 with a triple, homer and 7 RBI in the 2004 College World Series, making the All-Tournament Team.
As a sophomore, Jon batted .408/.490/.531 for the 7th-best average in Miami history. He was third in the Atlantic Coast Conference in average behind Shane Robinson and Aaron Bates and made first-team All-ACC in the outfield. He hit .262 with a team-high 15 runs and 7 steals with Team USA that summer; they did not play any major tournaments that winter.
Jay's batting line as a junior in 2006 was .361/.490/.520 to edge Jemile Weeks for the team lead in average. He was 31-for-38 in steals and scored 77 runs in 66 games. He was one steal and two runs behind Shane Robinson, the ACC leader, and tied for 6th in NCAA Division I in runs scored. He again was picked as an All-ACC outfielder.
Jay was immediately assigned to the Swing of the Quad Cities and hit .342/.416/.462 in 60 games for them, with 42 runs and 45 RBI. He would have led the Midwest League in average and OBP had he qualified. Baseball America rated him the #5 Cardinals prospect.
In 2007, Jon hit .235/.333/.373 in 26 games for the Springfield Cardinals but a right shoulder strain cost him a month. He was 1 for 2 for the GCL Cardinals on a rehab stint then batted .286/.321/.397 in 32 games for the Palm Beach Cardinals, missing another month with a left shoulder strain.
Jay was healthy for most of 2008, hitting .306/.379/.457 with Springfield and .345/.406/.500 in 16 games for the Memphis Redbirds before another left shoulder strain ended his season in August. He led the Texas League's outfielders in fielding (1.000) and was 8th in average, just ahead of teammate Allen Craig. Jay was rated the #16 prospect in the loop by Baseball America, between Will Inman and Kevin Jepsen.
In 2009, Jay spent all season with AAA Memphis, batting .281/.338/.394 with 20 steals in 28 tries and 72 runs. He made his first career error in the minors, fielding .996 in center. He was second among Cards farmhands with 142 hits (10 behind teammate Allen Craig) and 72 runs (6 behind Craig). Baseball America rated him as the top "Hitter for Average" in the St. Louis system.
Jay began 2010 with Memphis and was hitting .347/.420/.542 with 16 runs and 7 steals (not caught) in 17 games.
Jay was then called up to The Show to replace his longtime teammate and close comparison, Allen Craig, who was optioned down. He made his major league debut as a pinch-hitter for Kyle Lohse with a 3-0 deficit in the 6th against the Atlanta Braves on April 26, 2010. Facing Tim Hudson, the Floridian flyhawk struck out on three pitches. However, he quickly found his major league groove, hitting .300 in 105 games as a rookie. In 2011, he was the team's most used centerfielder as they won a World Series title, defeating the Texas Rangers in 7 games in the Fall Classic. He hit .297 in 159 games that year. He remained a starter and a solid contributor with the bat over the next three season, 2012 to 2014, playing in the postseason every year, including a return to the World Series in 2013, although the Cardinals were defeated in six games by the Boston Red Sox that year. He hit between .276 and .305 those three years, and while he did not hit for much power, his OPS+ was always 100 or above, as he contributed with his batting average, ability to draw walks, and good baserunning.
Things took a downward turn in 2015 however, even though the Cardinals had the best record in the majors that season. He played only 79 games, and contributed only a .210 average, with 1 homer and 10 RBIs. He had only 1 at-bat in the postseason as the Cards were surprised by the Chicago Cubs in the Division Series. He no longer figured in the team's plans, and on December 8th, he was traded to the San Diego Padres in return for 2B Jedd Gyorko. Things went better with San Diego in 2016, as he managed to bring his average back up to .290 - a particularly impressive figure for a player with his home games in hitter-hostile Petco Park. That was the main highlight of his batting line though, as he hit only 2 homers and drove in 26 runs in 90 games, and his OPS+ was still below average at 97. He became a free agent after the season and on November 29th, he signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs for $8 million. The Cubs saw him as insurance in the event they were unable to re-sign free agent CF Dexter Fowler.
Jay ended up playing 141 games for the Cubs in 2017, although his main position was left field, where he spelled Kyle Schwarber, and center field, which he shared with youngsters Albert Almora and Ian Happ. He hit a solid .296, with an OBP of .374, which compensated for a relative lack of power (just 18 doubles and 2 homers). He scored 65 runs and drove in 34. He also did not commit a single error in the field, and also made his pitching debut with a scoreless inning of mop-up relief in an 11-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on July 6th. In the postseason, he went a combined 4 for 23 in two series. He became a free agent again after the season, but the Cubs decided not to re-sign him, preferring to use someone issued from the organization as a fourth outfielder. Jay was left stranded for a long time, until he signed a deal with the Kansas City Royals on March 6, 2018. He was offered $3 million for one year and $1.5 million in potential bonuses and also had a shot at a starting job, given that the Royals' incumbent centerfielder, Lorenzo Cain, had left as a free agent earlier in the offseason. He did well for the Royals, hitting .307 in 59 games, with 28 runs and 18 RBIs and on June 6th, he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in return for Ps Elvis Luciano and Gabe Speier. The D-Backs had two starting outfielders, A.J. Pollock and Steven Souza, on the disabled list at the time. He played 84 games for Arizona, but hit just .235 with an OPS+ of 66 as the team faded from playoff contention in the second half after an excellent start.
Jay was a free agent after the 2018 season and on January 10, 2019, signed a one-year deal with the Chicago White Sox worth $4 million. He missed the start of the season with a hip problem and did not make his debut until June 24th, then was limited to 47 games during which he hit .267 with no homers and 9 RBIs. His season ended a month early due to a recurrence of the hip problems, undergoing surgery to repair a muscle tear at the end of August. In 2020, he went back to Arizona for a second tour of duty but played just 18 games in the pandemic-shortened season. He produced just 8 hits in 50 at-bats, for an average of .160 and it looked like he had reached the end of the line. He signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Angels before the 2021 season, but was released at the end of spring training, having failed to make the team.