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Countdown to Baseball: Mitch Nay
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays From Away
Mitch Nay looks to rise through the Blue Jays’ system in 2015, starting in Dunedin
You’ve probably heard a bit about Nay by now. He’s been featured in a few stories by mainstream media and the club is bringing in Scott Rolen to work with him on defence. Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com mentioned that roving hitting instructor Mike Barnett suggested a slightly different approach to Nay and that seems to be working as he hit a home run in the intrasquad game on Monday.
When you mention Mitch Nay’s name to Blue Jays minor league staff, you’ll generally hear all kinds of positive things. Nay is still developing and, looking over his stats, it might be a bit puzzling to hear him called one of the best hitters in the organization but by the time you finish reading this profile, I’m sure you’ll have a better idea.
Nay was scouted by Blake Crosby in Chandler, Az. as a big, strong, power hitting third basement. Despite a slow start to his senior year, he turned things around before breaking a bone in his foot which caused his draft stock to fall a bit. The Blue Jays drafted Nay with the 58th overall pick in 2012 and let him recover from his injury after signing him to a contract for $1 million.
Nay made his pro debut in 2013 at the Rookie level with the Bluefield Blue Jays. He had a tremendous season, hitting .300/.364/.426 with 11 doubles and six home runs while posting tremendous 9.7% walk rate and 13.6% strikeout rate.
Moved up to Vancouver for the playoffs, Nay helped the Canadians win their third-straight Northwest League title and was actually named the NWL Playoff MVP as well as a post-season All-Star for the Appalachian League. Baseball America also named him the #4 prospect in the Appalachian League that season.
Bluefield was where I first saw Nay; I saw a hitter who had a very consistent approach at the plate who could unleash absolute bombs when he got a pitch to his liking. One batting practice session was particularly impressive as Nay went deep five or six times. Later in the game, he hit a moonshot that led me speak of the thunder in his bat in terms of “light tower power.”
Nay began his second pro season in 2014 with the Lansing Lugnuts at the age of 20 and got off to a strong start, hitting .290 for April with seven doubles and a triple. He went into a bit of a funk in May, hitting only four extra-base hits but his batting average recovered for every other month of the season.
Overall, he hit .278/.335/.376, including 11 games where he struggled in Dunedin. Despite that end of season hiccup, Nay led the Lansing Lugnuts in doubles with 34 and earned the 2014 Webster Award for the Lugnuts as well as Midwest League All-Star berths for mid-season and post-season and an MiLB.com Organizational All-Star award.
Nay’s biggest asset is his power which can be quite incredible to watch. That said, he has had difficulties tapping into it in game situations and prefers to keep a steady approach at the plate, trying to use his at bats productively rather than to unleash monster home runs.
He had just a 15.3% strikeout rate in 518 Lansing at bats (although that number shot up to 22.5% in Dunedin) with a 7.5% walk rate.
Nay’s swing is very smooth and balanced and watching him take BP is one of my favourite things to do. Nay’s power stroke looked a little weaker than I had seen it in 2014, though. Perhaps he was working on driving the ball to the gaps but he was also hitting the ball the other way quite a bit when I saw him on several occasions in 2014. It would appear that those observations were true as Chisholm has written about Nay getting some advice late in the season from Barnett who has been working with Nay to hit the ball a out in front of the plate to pull it more and give it some loft.
Defensively, Nay is pretty good, although I have seen him make a couple of errors in my time watching him. He is still working on his footwork at third base but he has a strong arm and will make most of the routine plays. While my observations were made watching Nay play four or five games over the course of the season, the managers of the Midwest League felt that he was the best defensive third baseman in the league when Baseball America asked league managers to rate the tools of players in the league.
Team reps love Nay’s work ethic and he certainly doesn’t carry himself on the field or in the clubhouse like a bonus baby. He earned himself a look-see by the big league club as a non-roster invitee to major league camp and is certainly one of my candidates to break out in 2014, in his Age-21 season, likely spent in Dunedin.
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