We now come to a player at #8 who racked up awards and accolades in 2013 like no one else in the Blue Jays organization, third baseman Mitch Nay.
Name: Mitch Nay
Position: Third base
Date of Birth: 09/20/1993 (20)
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round (58th overall) of the 2012 draft; $1 M signing bonus
Born: Chandler, Arizona
High School: Hamilton HS
College: None (Arizona State commitment)
Height/Weight: 6’3″/195 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- 2013 Northwest League Playoff MVP
- 2013 Appalachian League All-Star
- Baseball America 2013 #4 Prospect in the Appalachian League
- 2014 Baseball America #4 Toronto Blue Jays Prospect
- 2014 Fangraphs #3 Prospect
- 2013 Jays Journal #14 Prospect
- 2013 Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game Champion
Don’t let the single line of stats fool you. For a player who has had only one professional season under his belt, Nay has shown maturity and ability beyond his years. Drafted in the supplemental round in 2012, Nay was believed to be an elite high school talent who was injured (broken foot) at draft time, perhaps allowing him to fall to the Blue Jays at #58 overall.
That injury forced Nay out of action in his first professional season in 2012 and, as a result, some prospect writers weren’t paying much attention to him. Not only did Nay hold his own in his first, somewhat aggressive assignment in Bluefield, but he excelled and was one of the team’s best and certainly its most consistent hitters. Nay got his “mojo” from good solid hitting rather than luck or swinging for the fences. While Nay has massive raw power (more on that in a bit), he was incredibly productive by having an above-average walk rate and a strikeout rate that was far below average. This explains his mention as having the “Best Strike-Zone Discipline” in the Blue Jays’ system by Baseball America.
The stats are pretty impressive overall, as he racked up a .300/.364/.426 slash line, but the numbers don’t reflect the fact that he was more concerned with situational hitting than selling out for power. In talking to Trey Wilson, the Bluefield Blue Jays’ radio announcer, I learned that he was much more impressed with Nay’s team-first approach at the plate by which he would look to get base hits up the middle, hit sacrifice flies or just generally do what was needed to produce runs.
Nay earned himself a call up to the Vancouver Canadians once the Bluefield Blue Jays were eliminated from the Appalachian League playoffs and Nay made his presence felt immediately. While his readily available stat line won’t reflect this (since minor league playoff stats are hard to come by), Nay added much needed thump to a power-starved Canadians lineup. He earned the Northwest League Playoff MVP award (without having played any regular season games in the league) by hitting .381 (8/21) with two doubles, a home run and four RBI in five games.
Nay’s abilities and results have earned him a lot of hype this offseason. Ranked as the #3 Blue Jays prospect by Fangraphs’ Marc Hulet who writes, “Nay could eventually challenge Stroman for the title of best draftee from the Jays’ 2012 class despite being the fourth player selected by the organization.” Nay also landed on Clint Longenecker’s list at Baseball America as the #4 prospect and earned “Prospects on the Rise” consideration from Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus.
Follow this link to an ESPN draft preview video from 2012 and you can see the massive raw power, the smooth swing and ability to drive the ball to all fields. In the video posted above, taken just last month while Nay was working out at a batting cage in Arizona, you can marvel at the ability he has to make solid contact on just about anything, even when he’s fooled a bit by the pitch speed and location (the pitching machine is throwing curves as well as straight pitches). Plus, just enjoy the sound his bat makes when he hits the ball. Sweet music to the ears.
I had the good fortune to watch Nay take batting practice in Bluefield and, like the videos above, it is an extremely impressive site. I was having a conversation with Jared Macdonald and some other bloggers about the value of watching batting practice and the experience can be extremely illuminating. BP is where you see where a player’s power potential lies. I’ve watched some professional players take BP who barely get the ball halfway into the outfield but I’ve watched players hit lasers and monster shots. Nay’s BP session back in July was one of the best I had seen, hitting five or six balls out of the park and he followed up with a monster, light-tower blast in the game that night.
Nay’s mechanics are almost ideal. He has a wide base and doesn’t use a high leg kick as a timing mechanism. He has a short toe tap and keeps his hands back and hips closed very effectively before rotating and generating that plus-plus power that scouts talk about. His hands take a very direct path to the ball and he finishes extremely well.
In the field, Nay is a decent third baseman, for now. Since being drafted, scouts believed that his future lay in the outfield or at first base but the Blue Jays appear intent on keeping him at third in the long run. They moved Matt Dean, also drafted as a third baseman, over to first base in 2013 which allowed both men to share the infield. Nay has a strong arm but earns criticism for his footwork and athleticism. Still, with the bat that he’s projected to have, it’s going to be hard to keep him off the diamond wherever he lands.
Needless to say, Nay is not a runner and doesn’t even have surprising speed the way Matt Dean does. He’s not going to steal but he’s not horrible on the base paths either.
Risk, Outlook and ETA
There is always a risk with young prospects who haven’t played above rookie ball; however, due to Nay’s maturity at the plate and incredible hand-eye coordination, the risk isn’t as high as it is for some of his Bluefield teammates who have more kinks to be worked out as they develop. With the level of polish that Nay is showing, he could very well tear his way through the mid-minors to reach Double-A by 2015 and the major leagues by the end of 2016.
Nay is going to start his full-season career in Lansing with a very gifted group of young players in 2014 and I have a feeling that the Blue Jays aren’t going to be as restrictive with Nay as they have been with their young pitchers at the same level. If he continues to show his excellent approach at the plate and is making progress in the field, I don’t see the Blue Jays holding him back and he could see Dunedin by the end of the season.
If you like what you’ve seen by Jay Blue, read his work and listen to his podcast on Blue Jays from Away and follow him on Twitter: @Jaysfromaway.