Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Dissecting the Struggles of Jared Jones & Anthony Solometo

Jared Jones and Anthony Solometo haven't done great since getting promoted, though should you be legitimatly worried about it?
Feb 22, 2023; Bradenton, FL, USA;  Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jared Jones (81) poses for photos
Feb 22, 2023; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jared Jones (81) poses for photos / Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
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Jared Jones

Let’s start with Jones. After an outstanding start to the season at Altoona, the hard-throwing righty was sent to Triple-A Indianapolis, and his numbers aren’t bad, but they’re not great either. He has a 4.78 ERA, 3.73 FIP, and 1.29 WHIP. Jones’ 28.5% strikeout rate is an improvement from Double-A, but his walk rate has gone up by about 1% (9.8%), and his HR/9 is 0.81. That’s still solid, but another area that has gotten worse.

Those numbers might not be horrible, but a let down after his strong start to the season. Without context and just looking at it from a glance, you might start to worry about his performance. But once you are given some context of the kind of league Jones is pitching in and how old he is, Jones’ numbers actually look pretty good.

The International League is as hitter-friendly, if not more, than during the peak of the steroid era. Batters are hitting .261/.356/.439 with an OPS of .795. Having an ERA of 5.00 makes you better than league average (5.19 is the average). The most hitter friendly year in baseball since the turn of the 1900s was 2000, where the league average triple-slash was .270/.345/.437, and the average ERA was 4.77.

Jones and his 4.78 ERA is nearly a half run better than average. Triple-A is also experimenting with the automated strike zone, which many pitchers are still getting used to. Jones pitched part of the season without it at Double-A before having to make the adjustments with an automated strike zone at Indy.

Jones’ other rate statistics are also much better than the league average. Walks are handed out like candy on Halloween as the league average walk rate is 11.8%. The average strikeout rate is just over 20% at 21.7%.

Home runs are also fairly common, as the HR/9 in the Eastern League is 1.30. On average, there’s about a hit per inning (9.0 H/9 rate), while Jones has a 7.9 H/9. Jones is significantly better in all respective statistics.

Here are some other noteworthy facts about Jones’ season. There are 82 pitchers with at least 70 innings pitched in the International League. Jones ranks top ten in FIP (5th), xFIP (6th), WHIP (8th), strikeout rate (4th), and HR/9 (T-9th). He is also top 15 in batting average against (13th), and K:BB ratio (11th). Even though his ERA is a tad high, take into consideration his .321 batting average on balls in play, which could be inflating his ERA slightly. I think it’s reasonable to say that Jones is a top 10 pitcher in the International League this season.

Also, just keep in mind that Jones is in his age-21 season (turned 22 in the first week of August), and he’s pitched over 70 innings (77.1 to be exact). He is the second youngest pitcher at Triple-A this season to have thrown at least 50 frames. The only one younger than him is San Francisco Giants’ top pitching prospect Kyle Harrison, who is only younger by six days.

Overall, Jones’ 2023 campaign is the 13th youngest at Triple-A over the last five seasons.  He is also the 7th youngest pitcher to have thrown at least 70 innings in the International League over the last decade (since 2013). Jones has also done well over his last four starts, only allowing six earned runs, striking out 25, walking just eight, and allowing two home runs over his last 24 innings of work.