Number Four - Starting Pitcher Jared Jones
Ben Cherington has drafted multiple high school pitchers throughout his tenure as the Pirates’ general manager. Jared Jones was the first of many. Drafted in the second round of the 2020 draft, Jones has steadily been trending upward, however, he’s made some major strides this season and is now seen as a top-100 prospect by most sources.
The hard-throwing righty started the year off at Altoona where he pitched to a strong 3.39 FIP, 2.23 ERA, and 1.08 WHIP. After greatly struggling with walks early in his career, Jones cut that down to just 8.9% for Altoona. He also kept up a quality 26.3% strikeout rate and allowed just three home runs throughout his 44.1 innings pitched. Because of how well Jones did at Double-A, he was quickly promoted to Triple-A.
Things haven’t gone as smoothly as they did at Altoona. He currently owns a 5.46 ERA, 3.90 FIP, and 1.43 WHIP. His walk rate has gone back up to 10.9%, though he’s still rocking a solid 0.91 HR/9 rate, and has struck out 30.4% of opponents faced. While these might seem like poor numbers, they fall around average, maybe even slightly above average in the extremely hitter friendly International League. Plus keep in mind he just turned 22 on August 6th.
Despite Jones’ so-so numbers at Triple-A, the stuff has looked better than ever. The righty is consistently throwing in the upper-90s. Along with plus velocity, he’s also averaging out with elite spin rate. His slider is also seen as a plus pitch, as he sits with 2500-2600 RPM, however, he’s not just a four-seamer/slider guy who might be a reliever. His changeup and curveball are both decent offerings. His curveball has even more spin than his slider, and his change-up is a spin killer.
The question that was surrounding Jones going into this year was his ability to throw strikes. He’s shown a much improved ability to do so, greatly showing some better control. However his command is lagging behind. Sure, it’s gotten better, though his control outpaces his command right now.
Still, the fact that Jones has been able to produce average to above average numbers at Triple-A in just his age-21 campaign is highly promising. He’s made some very encouraging strides this season. There’s still a chance he debuts before the end of the 2023 campaign. However, even if he doesn’t, the trajectory has been pointing upward for Jones all year. You can add Jones to the potential 2024 Pirate starting rotation.