Beau Jones ready for first full season

The Braves are excited about the potential of left-hander Beau Jones, drafted last year in the supplemental first round of the amateur draft. BravesCenter's Bill Shanks talked with Jones about the potential of making the jump to Rome for the 2006 season.

Beau Jones was the Braves' pick in the supplemental first round last year in the June draft, the 41st pick overall. But if Joey Devine had been off the board when Atlanta picked at 27, Jones would have been the selection.

The Braves believe the six-foot-one, 215-pound lefty is that good. In fact, they believed he was the top prep lefty in the country. He's got a wide frame that when filled out in a few years could remind us all of a certain Astros' lefty that has had good success in the postseason.

And now, the Louisiana resident, complete with his Cajun accent, is in his first spring training here at Disney's Wide World of Sports.

"It's different," Jones said. "It's hot. But it's baseball, and I'm enjoying every minute of it. I'm just learning the ropes. Getting that first one under your belt so it can become routine to you. Getting used to the different things you do. It's a lot like the Gulf Coast League, but there are several things you do different, times you've got to be here, stuff like that. There's a lot more people, and you don't get that many reps. But just getting that first one under your belt and getting used to it and going on about my business."

It's usually a culture shock for pitchers that come to their first spring training. Sure, they've been here for the Gulf Coast League and the Instructional League the year before. But all of a sudden they see mobs of red jerseys, the garment that separates the pitchers from the position players.

"That's what this organization is all about," Jones explained. "I'm one of seventy pitchers, but you've got to go about your business and learn about yourself."

Jones had a nice debut in the Braves' system last summer. He was 3-2 in 8 games (7 starts) with a 3.86 ERA. He allowed 25 hits in 35 innings pitched, with 16 walks and 41 strikeouts. Jones knows he's a much better pitcher now than he was a year ago, but the development has just begun.

"I've made progress," he said. "I've still got a long way to go. There's no doubt in my mind about that. I've got to throw more strikes and pound the zone, and that comes from maturing. So I've got to keep working hard and get it done."

But with success comes exposure. Since last season, Jones has gotten accolades as one of the best pitchers to come out of last year's draft and now one of the Braves' brightest prospects. But he doesn't sound like the publicity has gone to his head.

"That's just writing," Jones explained. "It doesn't mean nothing. I've got to go out there and perform and put up numbers. That's great. It's good to be talked about. But when it's all said and done, it's not what they've got on paper. It's where I'm at. I want to take a step. I want to make strides. I'm thankful that they look at me like that. I appreciate it. But when it's all said and done, I've got to put up numbers."

And to do that, Jones knows he's got to continue developing his three pitches: a fastball that is in the low-90s right now, a curve, and a changeup. His goals to improve those pitches are very clear.

"Just be able to control all three of them," he said. "Throw all three of them for a strike. Not be afraid to throw them at any time in the count. Be confident to throw them at any situation."

Jones' goal for this spring is also very clear. He wants to break camp and be on Rome's Opening Day roster. It's what every draft pick from the previous year hopes to accomplish in his first spring training, and Jones has a very good chance of making the jump to the Sally League.

"I want to start playing real baseball," Jones admitted. "Last year it was baseball, but you had fifteen fans here. It was hard to get motivated. I want to start taking steps. I'm ready to get on the road and get going. Just give me the rock. I just want to be out there performing and getting outs. I am ready for that next step."

Chances are, the Braves believe that as well.


Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional front office philosophies. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.


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