Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Jared Jones Can Climb Rankings
One of the Pittsburgh Pirates highest ceiling prospects is Jared Jones. Could he work his way to top-100 prospect status?
The Pittsburgh Pirates have many notable pitching prospects in their system. One of them is Jared Jones. The Pirates selected the La Mirada High School product in the second round of the 2020 draft. Jones was an over-slot pick, going for $2.2 million despite a slot value of just under $1.7 million.
The right-hander has a ton of potential, and there’s a good argument that FanGraphs should include him on their top 100 prospect list. Last year, Jones posted a 4.64 ERA, but under the surface, he had a 3.91 FIP, 3.75 xFIP, 34.1% strikeout rate, and 0.82 HR/9. Walks were his biggest struggle, but for a hard-throwing high schooler, an 11.3% walk rate against competition that’s about 2 years older than him is solid nonetheless. You have to remember that his 4.64 ERA isn’t fully reflective of what he can do. He had a .385 opponent batting average on balls in play despite an overall solid batted ball profile. That inflated his ERA to above 4.50.
Jones’s meal ticket is his four-seam fastball. It’s an offering that he can throw through the strike zone in the upper-90’s. He also throws a really good curveball and an even better slider. His three primary offerings are all considered 55+ grade offerings, but his fastball and slider are both considered 60-project pitches. Finally, he has a change-up, which is a fourth offering that FanGraphs projects to be average. However, all but his change sit at an average or better level right now, even before he turns 21-years-old.
Right now, FanGraphs ranks Jones as the Pittsburgh Pirates 17th best prospect. He sits on the border between 40+ FV and 45 FV. While I’m not going to claim I’m an expert prospect evaluator, I do not think FanGraphs FV measurements aren’t the best way of evaluating prospects, especially for very young prospects like Jones, which can fluctuate dramatically.
For example, Wander Franco started as a 50 FV prospect in 2018, then went into 2021 as an 80 FV prospect. Currently, FanGraphs only projects 13 players to become all-star caliber players. Just 29 projects to be better than average, which is above 2.5-3.0 fWAR. Those last two statements are improbable considering there are more than 100 position players alone who average more than 2.5+ fWAR a season (650 plate appearance rate) on average dating back to 2015. There are more than 13 players in baseball that are All-Star level or better.
Regardless of the measurement that FanGraphs uses for MLB’s top prospects, the point remains that Jones could reach top 100 watch next season. One pitcher who consistently ranks in the top 100 of FanGraphs’ rankings is Tahnaj Thomas. Like Jones, Thomas has a huge fastball. It’s one of the best in the minors. It is an 80-grade offering. Plus he has a 55-grade slider and he projects to have 60-grade command. However, Thomas has the projection of a relief pitcher. With Jones, at least you have a much wider arsenal to work with. Thomas has a third pitch, but it’s a work in progress.
If Thomas can rank as a top 100 prospect by FanGraphs’ measurement, why can’t Jones? While Thomas has a very slight edge in fastball velocity and better-projected command, Jones has a much wider array of offerings. He has a fantastic fastball and above-average secondary offerings. Jones has a higher chance of being a starting pitcher long-term than Thomas. So why isn’t Jones at least a borderline top 100 prospect?