Pittsburgh Pirates: Why Jared Jones Should Make Opening Day Rotation

Pittsburgh Pirates v Minnesota Twins
Pittsburgh Pirates v Minnesota Twins / Brace Hemmelgarn/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a young but talented group of players heading into the 2024 season. The one spot this team lacks the most is the rotation. Jared Jones could help fill that void if given the chance. Here is why Jared Jones should make the rotation coming out of spring training.

The Pittsburgh Pirates current rotation only has 3 guys that are proven MLB starting pitchers. Mitch Keller, Martin Perez, and Marco Gonzales will make this rotation and have already proven themselves as valuable options for the club as rotation arms. This leaves two spots up for grabs this spring training. The guys fighting for the last two spots look to be Luis Ortiz, Roansy Contreras, Quinn Priester, Bailey Falter, and Jared Jones.

Jared Jones' stats this spring training have been eye-opening. He has pitched 7.1 innings, allowing 0 earned runs with 6 strikeouts with a WHIP of 0.82 in 4 games. He has a four-pitch mix that includes a slider, curveball, changeup, and of course his fastball, which is his best pitch. His fastball has hit 101.1mph on the radar gun this spring. This has caught a lot of fans' and media's attention. His most recent game was his most impressive. He had 11 swings and misses in 2.2 innings with 3 strikeouts.

The other pitchers fighting for those two spots have not come close to Jones' production on the mound this spring. The one pitcher that has been a distant second is Luis Ortiz. Ortiz has pitched well and most likely deserves a spot in the rotation to start the season. So far, he has pitched 8.0 innings allowing just 3 earned runs while striking out 11 batters. He has a 3.38 ERA this spring and has improved his velocity and control from last year. He could really help this team if he can find himself again and prove to be a viable backend starter for this club.

Roansy Contreras is also fighting for one of those final two spots in the rotation this spring but has not proven he deserves it thus far. His velocity has been better, but his control continues to be bad especially with his off-speed pitches. He has pitched in 3 games this spring and has allowed 5 earned runs in 6.2 innings pitched. He has a WHIP of 1.95 and still looks a bit lost on the mound with pitch selection and placement. Contreras is out of options which does give him a good chance to make this team. He should be a middle relief pitcher to start the season out of the bullpen. He does not deserve to make the rotation over Jared Jones and Luis Ortiz at this time.

The other two pitchers competing for those final two spots are Quinn Priester and Bailey Falter. They both have shown some bright spots this offseason, but should not be considered options at this point in time. Priester still has a chance to be a starter one day, but needs more time in the minor leagues before getting another chance. Falter could be a decent middle relief pitcher that could eat innings for this team, but he lacks the tools needed to be a quality MLB starting pitcher. He could help this team in other ways and not being in the rotation is one of them.

Jared Jones had a good year in the minors last season. With Double-A Altoona, he pitched and started in 10 games. He had an ERA of 2.23 in 44.1 innings pitched with 47 strikeouts during his time there. He was then called up to Triple-A Indianapolis on June 20th, 2023. Jones pitched in 16 games and had an ERA of 4.72 in 82.0 innings, striking out 99 batters, but walked 34. Toward the end of the season, he started to show more comfortability on the mound. In September, he had an ERA of 2.78 in 4 starts, while striking out 21 batters and only giving up 6 walks. His control improved which helped him finish strong in 2023.

Jared Jones is currently ranked in most top 100 prospect lists. He is currently listed as the #75 prospect on Baseball America, the #62 prospect on FanGraphs, and the #62 prospect on MLB Pipeline.

This gives the Pittsburgh Pirates a little more motivation to have Jones make the team.

With the new CBA rules, they added the Prospect Performance Incentive, or PPI for short. This could help get a team an extra compensation pick in the MLB Draft. For this to happen, Jones has to either win the NL Rookie of the Year award or place in the top three in MVP or Cy Young voting prior to qualifying for arbitration. Also, Jones just has to make the Opening Day roster this season accrue the service time, and not qualify for any major awards, but can still retain eligibility for 3 years for him to place in the top 3 in voting for MVP or Cy Young for the team to qualify for a draft pick in the future.

Time will tell what this front office will do, but Jared Jones is making the decision a hard one for Ben Cherington and the company. Hopefully, the fans will get to see him on the big league team and in this rotation on opening day.