For some top prospects, the “road to the show” is a smooth and almost effortless path. Detroit Tigers prospect Jay Voss is not one of those lucky guys. And, to be exact his entire baseball career has been a bit of a bumpy ride. Voss wasn’t the best baseball player at his small High School in Breese, Illinois. He spent the majority of his time in the shadow of his best friend–New York Mets catcher Josh Thole.
When it came time to go to college, Voss didn’t receive a scholarship to a top tier University either. Instead, he attended junior college at Kaskaskia CC in Illinois. He had to grind harder than the next guy, but at the end of the day the juice was worth the squeeze. Voss was selected by the Florida Marlins in the 8th round of the 2007 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
His time with the Marlins mirrored his early years; lots of ups and downs. Regardless, the young southpaw continued to grind, perfecting his craft.
The Detroit Tigers acquired Voss on March 30th, 2010 when the Marlins traded for southpaw Nate Robertson. In 2010, his first season as a Tiger, Voss bounced between Advanced-A Lakeland and AA-Erie posting a combined 4.54 ERA. Refusing to accept mediocrity Voss continued to make adjustments and chase his dream.
Last season, the hard work finally paid off and everything clicked. A move to the rotation yielded 12 wins, a 3.56 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. Despite the breakout season, Voss continues to fly under the radar a bit, still unknown by some Tigers fans. The best has yet to come though. His days of “flying under the radar” are about to be a distant memory.
Voss is the type of prospect that’s easy to root for, he works hard. Tigers fans will quickly learn that and become fans of his blue collar, hard work approach to the game of baseball. Nothing has been given to Jay Voss and he seems quite content with that. His hard work is beginning to show results. Those results are proving he not only belongs, but that he has value to the big league club.
This week Jay was kind enough to check in with us to answer some questions.
Follow the jump for the Q&A…
Q&A with Tigers Prospect Jay Voss
MCB: Who has had the biggest influence on your baseball career?
Jay Voss: This one is easy. My Dad! No contest. He showed me the game of baseball and made it fun for me. He was extremely supportive of me. When I was a sophomore in high school I was not very good and was barely seeing any time on the field for the JR Varsity team. I thought about quitting and he told me I would forever regret not sticking with baseball. Turns out he was right I guess. That was the turning point in my baseball life. He passed away in January after 2+ years of fighting brain cancer. I have dedicated myself to working as hard as I can to realize our dream together and make him proud.
MCB: At what point in your life do you remember deciding that professional baseball was something that you wanted to pursue?
JV: It has been a dream of mine since as early as I can remember. The point when I realized how bad I wanted it was when my best friend (Josh Thole- NY Mets catcher). I could not imagine a more enjoyable experience.
MCB: You went the Juco route and played your college ball at Kaskaskia Junior College. I’m sure you had to work a lot harder there to get noticed. Can you tell us a little about your time there?
JV: I went to Kaskaskia needing to mature physically and mentally. The coaching staff there pushed us beyond our limits and taught us to never be satisfied. My stuff improved immensely as I matured physically. Our JUCO conference was very strong pitching wise so the bleachers were always packed with scouts. My sophomore year there I threw very well and got my shot with the Marlins and became the highest drafted player in Kaskaskia’s rich history.
MCB: You struggled a bit your first two seasons in the Marlins farm system. In 2009 you really flipped the switch though posting a 2.72 ERA between Advanced-A and AA. What adjustments did you make? Was there any coaches or mentors along the way that helped you right the ship?
JV: I had a great relationship with the Marlins pitching coordinator Wayne Rosenthal. He worked with me tirelessly to repeat my delivery and turn my raw stuff into effectiveness on the mound. I was able to be more consistent and confident with my stuff in ’09 which allowed me to turn the corner.
MCB: This past season you moved from the bullpen to the rotation, something you hadn’t done since 2007 with the Jamestown Jammers. How did the move materialize? What was the most difficult part of making the transition?
JV: I’m not really sure how it came about. I was out with illness toward the end of spring training and was regaining my form in extended when Drew Smyly went down in Lakeland. I was approached about filling that role while he recovered. I did very well there and they decided to see how it would work. It took off from there. The most difficult part was changing routines and finding a 5 day routine that had me best prepared.
MCB: You responded very well, winning 12 games, posting a 3.56 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. The front end of the Tigers rotation is a bit crowded but there’s an opening for the fifth spot, and one in the ‘pen. Do you see yourself as a reliever or a starter in the big leagues? Any chance we’ll see you competing for a spot this spring?
JV: I really try not to think about that stuff. My goal is to go into Spring Training and work as hard as I always have to get better and make strides. Starting… Relieving… That is not for me to decide. I just consider myself a pitcher. I intend to pitch and let those in charge of making decisions decide when I’m ready. Whether it is as a starter or reliever. I don’t know if that answers the question. The Tigers are a well run organization and I will fill whatever role I can help them in.
MCB: What’s a typical game day like for you when you’re pitching? Do you have any pre-game rituals?
JV: I sleep in an extra hour or 2. I try to stay busy. If we’re at home I might run errands or do laundry or something. As far as ore game rituals I have nothing in particular. I keep it as relaxed as I can. I am not a strict routine guy. 30 minutes before game time I go out and perform my warm up routine. Then it’s game time and I go as hard as I can for as long as I can to give our club a chance to come out on top.
MCB: Last season you threw over 40 innings more than your previous career high. How has your arm handled the increase in innings?
JV: My arm handled it fine. It got a little tired the last couple of weeks but I was happy with the innings I piled up. I like to think I work very hard between starts to keep my body in top condition. I typically stick to the same routine every 5 days and make sure I’m ready to take the ball. I always say that the 1 thing in baseball you can always control is the work and effort you put in.
MCB: Spring Training is around the corner. For those of us who don’t know, take us through the steps you’ll take to get your arm ready for the upcoming season.
JV: Well I played winter ball in the DR this year so I pushed back my throwing. I started playing catch and stretching my arm out in the middle of December and started working off the mound in the middle of January. I usually get about 10 sessions off the mound before I report to spring training. It gives me enough time to build my stamina and work on my pitches.
MCB: What part of your game, specifically, are you looking to improve on this year?
JV: Obviously I am always trying to improve the quality of my stuff. In addition I want to continue to get better at not having little bouts of ineffectiveness in my starts. Last year I only had 3 scoreless starts. My intent is to not allow any runs as should be the goal for all pitchers. Last year I remember 1 stretch where I think Crosby, Myself and Smyly all went 7 scoreless back to back to back. We communicated about the hitters in the lineup we were facing and were very effective. We all learned. I would like to continue that this year. We have so much young talent. We just have to learn everyday.
MCB: Switching gears a bit, I have a few non baseball questions from our readers. What are some of the things away from the game that you like to do for fun?
JV: I really enjoy my time with friends and family in the off-season. I like coming home in the fall and playing golf with my uncles when it’s still warm. I come from a small tight-knit area. Breese has 4,500 people. I am a small-town guy from middle america. I still like going out to my alma mater for High School football and basketball games.
MCB: What have you been up to this off-season?
JV: This has been a very different off-season for me. It started in the Dominican Republic for winter ball. It was my first time, and it was a phenomenal experience. Then when I came home I started my workouts getting ready for this season. I volunteer to train the high school baseball team 3 days per week, and I teach 15+ pitching lessons every weekend for off-season income. This particular winter I have been very involved in following and supporting my cousin Taylor Voss in her senior year. I challenged her last year to be area player of the year this year like i was my senior year. She already won it in volleyball and is in the running for basketball. Have to keep that stuff in the family right? LOL
MCB: Outside of baseball do you follow any sports?
JV: I love College football and basketball. Huge U of Illinois fan!
MCB: What are five songs or albums that you’re currently listening to on your iPod?
JV: Tough one. Couldn’t name specific songs. I listen to a lot of hip hop for workouts and such. But most of the time I’m playing country. Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Chris Young, Zac Brown Band, etc. Oh, and anything by Lil Wayne.
MCB: What’s your all-time favorite baseball movie?
JV: For the love of the game! Bull Durham and Major League are close behind. Every pitcher can identify with FTLOTG and think back to a game like that. I never pitched a no hitter or perfect game, but I can remember games where everything was clicking. I truly love the game also so the name of the movie fits with me.
Keep an eye on Jay Voss as he continues to earn his stripes down on the farm.
For more interviews with Detroit Tigers Prospects, click here.