Jared Jones has some of the filthiest stuff in the entire Pirates organization. With a fastball that reaches the upper 90s, to go along with a wipe out slider, it wasn’t much of a shock that the 2020 second round pick led the system in strikeouts this past season.
The surprising part came in some of his struggles.
Despite the impressive swing and miss stuff, Jones got hit around in High-A in 2022, posting a 4.62 ERA in 122.2 innings. When a pitcher posts a high ERA in Greensboro, you can usually blame it on First National Bank Field, one of the more hitter-friendly parks in the minors.
That wasn’t the case for Jones, who actually got hit around more on the road (4.66 ERA, eight home runs, .270 average in 58 innings) than he did at home (4.59 ERA, 11 home runs, .224 average in 64.2 innings).
It was weird to see Jones struggle at times the way he did, seeing not only how he struck out as many batters as he did, but he also was able to cut back on his walks (9.6 BB%) from 2021 (11.3%).
Struggling isn’t the worst of things, as it highlights the things that you need to work on. If you can learn and get better from a rough season, then you are on the right path. Jones sounded like he was on the right path in figuring out what went wrong in Greensboro.
“It’s really just trusting in my stuff,” Jones told Pirates Prospects. “Whenever I’m not trusting my stuff, that’s when I end up getting hit a lot.”
Jones made his first start of the season against the Winston-Salem Dash, and showed what he could do when he’s in sync on the mound. He uses his overpowering fastball and breaking ball to strikeout the side in order.
“When I have full conviction in something, I feel like I can throw the ball wherever I want,” said Jones.
We saw that against the Dash in the first inning of his first start. Jones comes out throwing gas with his fastball, mixing in a breaking ball here and there, but really just looking to overpower the opposition.
It took 13 pitches for Jones to get through that first inning — nine of them fastballs, three of those he got the hitters to swing and miss.
So what went wrong this year? The stuff you see from Jones doesn’t match the results that he got this past season with Greensboro.
Jones admitted that sometimes he tries to be too perfect when trying to throw, instead of having that full conviction in what he was doing.
“I lose it when I try and do too much with a pitch,” Jones said when talking about improving his control. “Like if a guy fouls off the slider, I want to throw another, I try and make it 10 times better, which I shouldn’t because it’s already good.”
Here are a few examples of Jones missing and it costing him throughout the season. In the first clip, Jones jumps out ahead with a beautiful fastball/breaking ball combination inside on the left-handed hitting Tyler Tolve, before going up the ladder even farther to try and get a chase. The catcher then sets up twice on the inside of the plate, with Jones missing both times. The second is hit for a home run.
The second clip Jones has a couple of pitches fouled off, eventually leaving a breaking ball that Willie Carter blooped for a base hit. There were two outs and two strikes when that happened, with Jones missing an opportunity to get out of the inning.
Finally, against Marcelo Mayer, Jones again jumps ahead 1-2 after getting the hitter to swing and miss on a back foot breaking pitch. A couple of pitches later, the catcher sets up inside again, and the fastball runs away, allowing Mayer to slap the ball the other way for a double.
I said before the season that Jones has some of the most electric stuff in the system, and in some ways, was still ahead in his feel for pitching. None of that has changed despite what the numbers say, and despite some of his struggles there’s plenty still available to show that.
This is the third inning of his July 15 start against the Brooklyn Cyclones, an outing where Jones struck out eight batters across six frames of one-run baseball. He goes on to strike out the side here, showing an incredible blend of pitching on each batter.
He gets the first out starting out with fastballs on both sides of the plate to set up a back-foot breaking ball for a swing and miss strike three. His ability to use both sides of the plate is shown throughout, getting the second hitter looking on a breaking ball after getting him to miss away earlier on.
Finally, Jones starts with three straight fastballs, before trying to get the hitter to chase with a couple of breaking balls in the dirt. He finishes off the hitter with an almost unhittable back-door fastball that broke right on the corner of the plate.
Jones remains a fascinating prospect for the Pirates. Few have the raw stuff that he does on the mound, it still just seems to be a matter of harnessing it. He’s still going to profile as a reliever to a lot of people, and even if that’s the case he has the stuff to be an elite one.
He took some lumps this season, which was expected for someone his age and for a player moving on from the league that had the lowest combined OPS last year to a league a little more known for offense. Jones gave as good as he got though, and could be another player that his stuff plays better in Altoona as opposed to Greensboro.
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Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.