Name: Justin Jones
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: September 25, 1984
While Justin Jones has struggled through injuries during his Minor League career, he is a big-time left-handed pitching prospect, who was once as high as the number two prospect for the Chicago Cubs before coming over to the Twins. The Twins received Jones in the Doug Mientkiewicz deal, and he could turn out to be a tremendous steal. Any organization would love a lefty like Jones, and he put together a nice season in his first full year in the Twins system.
He broke into the Minor Leagues in 2002 as a member of the Cubs AZL team. Right out of high school, Jones quickly made his way to the Northwest League, after posting a 1.80 ERA in 11 starts in the AZL. In the Northwest League, Jones make one start, tossing five innings, picking up the win, as he struck out four batters.
In 2003, Jones got his first taste of the Midwest League, as he posted some pretty good numbers. He made 16 starts for Lansing, and while he only posted a 3-5 record, he did in fact have a small ERA. In fact, aside from his 2.28 ERA, Jones struck out 87 batters in 71 innings, and held the opposition to a .215 batting average.
The 2004 season was a season that brought highs and lows for Jones, as he battled injuries at the beginning of the season. The cause of his woes was elbow discomfort, and he was shut down for the first half of the season. When he came back, he threw well, and the Twins scooped him up from the Cubs.
Before the trade, he had made 15 starts for Lansing, posting a 3.78 ERA, but his strikeouts per nine innings took a big dip.
Still, the Twins grabbed him, and assigned him to Quad City, where he struggled a bit. In his seven appearances, starting four, he posted a 5.32 ERA, and lost two games. He seemed to have some control problems, as he walked 14 against 17 strikeouts, and allowed 12 earned runs in 20 innings of work.
Last season, he again battled some injuries problems, making it three years in a row, as he was part of the pitching staff in Fort Myers. For the Miracle, Jones posted a nice 7-3 record, and finished the year with a 3.01 earned run average. One of the better pitchers in the Florida State League, Jones again seemed to struggle with his control, walking more than one batter for every strikeout.
The 2006 hopefully brings Jones a full, healthy season, where he can once again showcase the arsenal that made him such a huge prospect in the Cubs organization. Now that he has bought into the way things work in the Twins' organization, there is more than enough reasons to believe a big season is on the horizon for Jones.
Repertoire: Fastball, Curveball, Changeup
Fastball.For a guy who has had some elbow trouble, Jones still throws pretty hard for a left-hander. His fastball sits in the 91-93 miles per hour range, and after working with his delivery, he should be able to have better command of his fastball during the 2006 season. Still, he is a lefty, and a young lefty, and the fact that he can get his heater into the mid-90s is something that has Twins officials very excited. Now that he has settled into the system, and feels comfortable with his surrounding, Jones should be able to use the fastball as a much better compliment to his other pitches, which happen to be above-average.
Other Pitches.Jones may have one of the better curveballs in the organization, as it has been rated as a plus pitch. Some batters have told me that sometimes they do not even see the ball, as he has the ability to make hitters look silly with his hook. When you add to that a very good changeup, coupled with more command on his heater, he will definitely give the opposition fits in 2006. Those three pitches are what makes him a big-time prospect.
Pitching.Jones has overcome a lot during his Minor League career, so it is no be surprise that he does not let too many things bother him on the mound. It took him a little while to buy into the Twins way of doing things, but now he seems to be ready to take off. He is very confident on the mound, and now that his arsenal appears to be complete, he should continue to blossom. He also has a nice pickoff move, and one thing he needs to work on is going deeper into games.
Projection.Jones is still projected to be a starting pitcher, as he has started all but three of his appearances during his Minor League career. He'll start the season in Fort Myers in the starting rotation, and could go as far as Double-A. Some believe he could make the move to a long man in the bullpen, but if he can continue to up his innings per start ratio, he should be able to continue to project as a starting pitcher.
ETA. 2008. Being one of the top left-handing pitching prospects in the Twins organization, Jones has a pretty high ceiling. As I stated before, he will be in Fort Myers to start the season, but should make his Double-A debut this season. In 2007, he split time between Double-A and Triple-A, as any Minor League team could use a lefty with his arsenal. He'll most likely get a call-up in 2008, when he'll only be 23, and with Francisco Liriano, and Johan Santana in the rotation, could be a lefty out of the bullpen. He still has guys like Glen Perkins ahead of him in the organizational depth chart, so he is going to have to stay healthy in 2006 to continue to up his stock.