Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Minor League Season Predictions
By Noah Wright
Biggest Pitcher Breakout
The Pirates' 2020 second-round pick, Jared Jones, showed massive amounts of potential at Bradenton in 2021. His solid seasons at Low-A earned him the promotion to Greensboro the following year, but he failed to live up to the expectations. Although, it should be noted that he was very young for the level.
In 122.2 innings, Jones worked to a 4.62 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and 1.35 WHIP. Although Jones posted a similar ERA in 2021, his FIP jumped by nearly a whole run. He still carried a healthy 26.7% strikeout rate and cut his walk rate down below 10% to 9.3%, however, his HR/9 rate went from just 0.82 the previous season to 1.39 the following year. Now granted, Greensboro is known as a hitter's paradise, and the league average ERA in the South Atlantic League was 4.46, but it was not a great sophomore season for Jones either way.
So why do I think Jones can improve at arguably the minor league's most determining level? The first reason is Jones had an HR/FB ratio of 16%, about a 4% uptick from 2021. If he can get that back down to 12%-ish, his HR/9 will drop significantly. The difference between a 16% HR/FB ratio and a 12% HR/FB ratio on 150 ground balls is six home runs (24 to 18). There's also no question Jones has the stuff to back up a great performance.
Jones typically works in the upper-90s with a plus-plus slider. Along with his fastball/slider, he also throws an above-average curveball and decent changeup. The major question mark when the Pirates drafted Jones was if he could harness his powerful arsenal, and he has certainly developed in terms of limiting walks and locating his offerings.
It's not as if Jones hasn't shown he can be a decent pitcher. He was trending upward heading into the 2022 campaign after looking very good at Bradenton. Double-A may be a real test for him, but I believe that he has the talent and potential to conquer Altoona. He definitely has the stuff to play at that level.