The Pirates drafted Jared Jones in the second round of the 2020 draft. Like Shim, he was a young, under-20-year-old flamethrower at the time the Pirates acquired him. Jones has certainly shown a fair amount of talent and looked promising in 2021, but he struggled in 2022. But if Jones can put it together at Altoona next season, he could become a top-100 prospect by the end of the season.
Jones pitched at the hitter-friendly Greensboro last season posting a 4.62 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and 1.35 WHIP. Jones got his fair share of strikeouts with a 26.7% strikeout rate, but that was a large decrease from the 34.1% rate he had at Bradenton in 2021.
But on the plus side, he cut his walk rate down from 11.3% to 9.6%. Where Jones struggled was with home runs, in which he allowed 1.39-per-9. But you have to keep in mind that the average ERA and WHIP in the South Atlantic League were 4.46 and 1.38, respectively. Jones also had a 16.2% HR/FB ratio, which played into his struggles with the long ball. No surprise, given that Greensboro is home-run-friendly. Jones was also very young for the league.
Jones throws around 96-99 MPH. His fastball is one of the best in the Pirate system, with Luis Ortiz being arguably the only pitcher in the system with a better four-seamer right now. He also throws a well-above-average slider, which is his best breaking pitch. But he also throws a curveball and changeup. MLB Pipeline is very bullish on Jones’ stuff, giving him 55-grades for three of his four offerings (fastball, slider, curveball) and grading his change-up as average.
The question when the Pirates drafted Jones was his command. However, he’s made visible progress in his ability to harness his stuff. He’s not going to be the next Greg Maddux, and he’s still slightly below average, but with the elite offerings he has to use, there’s certainly a lot to like about Jones, even if he isn’t the best command pitcher.
Double-A is when you start to see the separation between the prospects and the hype. Jones certainly has the talent to be a top prospect, and hopefully, a more pitcher-friendly environment does him some good. If he returns to his 2021 self, there’s certainly a chance you will start to see him on some top 100 lists. The Pirates have had some other flamethrowers breakout at Altoona over the last few years, so maybe Jones is the next one.