School: University of Virginia; Class: Junior
Position: RHP; B/T: R/R
Height: 6-3; Weight: 200
Previously Drafted: San Diego Padres, 21st round, 2013
Background: Hailing from a school that’s graduated the likes of Danny Hultzen, Seth Greisinger, Nathan Kirby, and Josh Sborz, it’s surprising that Jones’ 18 starts last season was the second most in the University of Virginia’s length history. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-hander out of Chesapeake, Virginia, has been a steading hand over his three years at the school.
Spending the majority of his freshman season in extended relief outings, Jones finished the year with a solid 40-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio with a 3.13 ERA in 54.2 innings of work. Head Coach Brian O’Connor pushed the hard-throwing hurler into the rotation the following year, 2015, and Jones’ production took a noticeable step forward: 115.2 innings, 113 K, 52 BB, and a 3.19 ERA; his strikeout rate jumped from 6.59 K/9 to nearly one punch out per innings.
This season Jones has made some strides in stabilizing his below-average control – his walk rate, which hovered around 4.0 BB/9 the two previous seasons, currently stands at just 2.89 BB/9 – but it seems to have come at the cost of missing bats; he’s averaging 6.39 K/9, a new career low.
Projection: Just to kind of put things into perspective a bit, between 2011 and 2015, there have been four right-handers throw at least 85 innings, post a strikeout rate below 7.0 K/9, and a walk between 2.0 B/9 and 3.0 BB/9: Mike Compton, Jack Fischer, Zac Gallen, and Eric Whaley – none of whom were considered blue-chip caliber prospects. If the season ended today, Jones’ name would be the fifth one on the list.
At various points in his collegiate career Jones has resembled a potential early round pick, but the fact that he hasn’t put together a season in which he’s missed a solid amount of bats with solid control is quite troubling. At best he’s a backend starts, but he’s very likely to be a bullpen candidate once in the professional ranks.
Ceiling: 1.0-win player
Floor: Replacement Level
Grade: Third/Fourth Round