Scouting Twins Prospect #44: Jay Rainville

Jay Rainville was long considered one of the top pitching prospects in the Twins organization prior to an injury that robbed him of the 2006 season. However, he has bounced back strongly, and has one again become one of the top arms in the system. Here is a look at our 44th ranked prospect.

Name: Jay Rainville
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: October 16, 1985
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 230
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Rainville was one of five first round picks that the Twins had in the 2004 draft. Also a National Hockey League prospect, Rainville signed with the Twins for 875,000 dollars after being drafted right out of high school. A big kid, who has drawn comparisons to Roger Clemens, Rainville was on the fast track until an injury sidelined him for the entire 2006 season.

He began his professional career as a member of the Gulf Coast League Twins in 2004, and look great in his eight appearances (seven starts). He went 3-2 on the year, but posted a 1.84 earned run average, while striking out 38 batters in 34 innings of work. Already looking like a seasoned professional, the Twins decided Rainville could handle the jump to full-season ball in 2005.

For his efforts, Baseball America rated him as the eighth best prospect in the Gulf Coast League, joining teammates Kyle Waldrop, Anthony Swarzak, and Juan Portes.

During the 2005 season, Rainville was one of the many top-flight starting pitching prospects to pepper the Beloit Snappers roster, and he did well enough to warrant a promotion to High-A Fort Myers. Rainville went 8-2 for the Snappers, while posting a 3.77 ERA along the way, and and struck out 77 batters. He did struggle with the long ball though, as he allowed 14 of them during his 16 starts.

After his promotion to High-A Fort Myers, Rainville did not look overmatched at all, as he finished with a 2.67 ERA in nine starts. He also showed pinpoint control, as he walked only six batters during his 54 innings of work. Overall, he finished with a 4-3 record for the Miracle, which included a complete game victory against Jupiter on August 5.

Once again, Rainville garnered Baseball America honors, as he was rated as the 11th best prospect in the Midwest League. He was one of five Snappers to be awared top-20 honors, joining Swarzak (8), Matt Garza (10), Trevor Plouffe (12), and David Winfree (14).

Rainville did not pitch in 2006, and would return to the Florida State League in 2007.

Rainville was very successful coming back from injury in 2007, and was one of the top starters for the Fort Myers Miracle. All season long, he was a constant in the rotation, appearing in 27 games while starting 26. Though he finished third in the league with 11 losses, he posted a 3.29 earned run average, and won nine games. He also logged a career-high 142.1 innings, silencing any critics who thought he could not come back healthy.

In 2008, Rainville did not fare so well, appearing in 24 games for the New Britain Rock Cats. Making all starts, Rainville was hit hard in the Eastern League, leading the league in home runs allowed, and finishing second in the league in earned runs. He would finish the season with Fort Myers, where he fared much better, posting a 2.87 earned run average in three games. He is slated to open the season in New Britain in 2009.

Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup

Fastball. When Rainville was in high school, he was able to get the ball all the way up in the high-90s. In 2004, he was registering 92-94 consistently on the radar gun. Last season he was down a few notches, as his fastball is now sitting in the high-80s to low-90s range. This may be due to arm weakness, due to some injury problems. However, with his big frame, he should be able to get that heater back where it belongs, as he reminds most people of Roger Clemens when he is on the hill.

Other Pitches: Rainville has a nasty curveball, and it has a nice 12-6 drop on it. Some consider it to be one of the better right-handed curveballs in the organization, and I could not agree more. He also has an average changeup, which some scouts believe could become a plus-pitch if he continues to develop it. His three-pitch arsenal is pretty deadly when he is on, and that is something the Twins will make sure he gets back once he is healthy.

Pitching. Rainville is a horse, and when he is healthy, can go deep into any ballgame he pitches in. He also has pinpoint control, and most people I have talked to feel he has the best command of any pitcher in the Twins' farm system. Still, he needs to avoid injury, because sooner or later, they are going to take a toll on him. He is also very intense, although he has a tremendous pitcher's mind. He can recognize situations, and what pitches to throw in those situations, that most pitchers his age cannot.

Projection. While he is a horse when he is healthy, and could project as a front of the rotation starter, the injuries are definitely piling up for Rainville. Some are questioning his durability, and a move to the bullpen may be in order if he cannot stay healthy. However, this writer thinks he will get healthy and be a big-time starter, as he has the mental and physical toughness to be just that. Only time will tell, but the former NHL prospect will not let a couple of injuries early in his career derail what should be a promising career.

ETA. 2010. Rainville has certainly been an innings eater since returning from the injury, and is slated to open the season with New Britain in 2009. He should be at the front of the rotation, and I am certain he will be in Rochester at some point. If all goes well, and he is able to stay healthy, he is likely to make his Major League debut sometime during the 2010 season.


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