Scouting Yankee Prospect #16: Jason Jones

The New York Yankees selected RHP Jason Jones in the 4th round of the 2004 draft out of Liberty University. Jones has exhibited some of the best control among the Yankees pitching prospects. It is this reason that Jones ranks #16 among the Top 50 Yankees Prospects. Here's a scouting report on Jason Jones. <b>(Free Preview of Premium Content)</b>

Vital Statistics:
Name: Jason Jones
Position: Pitcher
DOB: November 20, 1982
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 225
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
How Acquired: The New York Yankees selected RHP, Jason Jones in the 4th round (129th Overall) of the 2004 MLB Amateur Draft out of Liberty University.

As good a draft as the Yankees had in 2004, the name Jason Jones might not be the first name to jump at you as a future Major Leaguer. However, Jones might actually be the most polished player among the 2004 draftees and could easily be the first 2004 Yankees' draftee to reach the Majors. Jones is the epitome of a late bloomer. Overlooked by professional and collegiate scouts while in high school, you can hardly blame them. Armed with a fastball that sat only in the 84 MPH range, Jones lacked the "live arm" that scouts search for when scouting the high school ranks. Jones' success was predicated on his above average command and was offered a scholarship from only Western Carolina University and Liberty University. Growing up a Baptist while playing for Arlington Baptist High School in Baltimore, Maryland, Jones opted for Liberty.

In college, Jones worked with Liberty pitching coach Randy Tomlin tirelessly to improve his mechanics and beef up his velocity. Jones was used as a spot middle reliever his first year, but began throwing a little harder, improving his fastball to 86 MPH. Jones made a name for himself in 2002, setting the school record for wins with eleven. As good an accomplishment as it was, Jones took it in perspective. "I set the school record for wins, but that was more because we had tremendous hitting on that team", Jones told PinstripesPlus.com this offseason. But perhaps even more impressive than his won-loss record (11-5) was the marked improvement in his velocity. Jones started throwing his fastball even harder, getting it into the 88-89 MPH range during his 2002 season. But Jones wasn't done improving his speed. "I did play for the Torrington Twisters later that summer before my junior year in the New England Collegiate League and I remember I broke 90 MPH for the first time in the All-Star Game", Jones said.

Gaining more confidence and momentum from his improved velocity, Jones' progression hit a speed bump. A stress fracture to the femur in his left leg and a bone bruise from an injury sustained in the weight room in the fall before his junior year, sidelined him for the entire 2003 season. Jones had to recover from the injury and struggled in the early part of the 2004 season for Liberty. It took Jones nearly nine months to rehab from his injury, but he peaked at the right time. With the 2004 MLB Draft only a couple of months away, Jones finished his season with two strong performances in his last two starts. "My last two starts of the year I threw a 4-hitter and a 6-hitter and I carried that momentum into the workouts at Yankee Stadium when I was invited there before the draft. And after pitching well there, much to my surprise, the Yankees selected me in the fourth round. I was thrilled", Jones told us. Again, as great as his stretch run was, it was the added velocity that turned the heads of the Yankees. Jones, who threw just 84 MPH as a high school senior, consistently was clocked in the 90-92 MPH his final year at Liberty, even reaching as high as 94 MPH.

Jones carried his momentum into his professional debut with the Yankees in 2004, going a combined 5-4 in two stops between Staten Island and Battle Creek. In 79 1/3 innings, Jones walked just 6 batters and exhibited some of the best control among all the Yankees' pitching prospects. So what was the reason he had more success in the professional ranks than he had in college? "Well like I said, having that year off and being injured, it took me a while to get back to where I wanted to be", said Jones. "I think I was pitching so well towards the end of my college season and into the workouts that the momentum carried me a little bit into my first season with the Yankees. But I think it was more because I started pitching to my strengths. I finally figured out the mental aspects of pitching and figured out things for myself. I was also able to get a lot more movement with my 2-seam fastball this past summer. I was able to throw more inside and out with my location. I was throwing more inside in college. I just learned to mix up my pitches better and when to throw the right pitch."

Year

Team

W-L

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2004

Battle Creek

3-1

31.1

38

3

19

2.87

2004

Staten Island

2-3

48.0

42

3

27

2.44


*Stats as of 10/1/04

Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Slider, Changeup.

Fastball. Jones throws both a 2-seam fastball and a 4-seam fastball. Only able to throw about 84 MPH and being considered more of a "soft tosser" in his amateur days, Jones relied on his location earlier in his pitching career. He's been able to add a lot more velocity over the last few years, and is now able to consistently bring his 4-seam fastball in the 90-92 MPH, touching the radar gun as high as 94 MPH at times. Even though he's been able to throw harder, he has not lost his fantastic location or command. Jones also throws a 2-seam fastball with great sinking action, a pitch he says is probably his second best pitch behind his slider. His 2-seamer is in the 88-90 MPH range. He's able to throw both fastballs inside and outside with great command.

Other Pitches. Jones has a decent curveball, averaging about 73-75 MPH. He compliments his fastball and curveball with a devastating slider that has tremendous late breaking action, tailing away from right-handed batters. His slider, which averages 81-83 MPH, currently works as his out pitch despite not throwing too many in the NY-Penn League in 2004. Jones figured out pretty quickly that he would have to incorporate his slider and curveball more upon his promotion to Battle Creek last season. Jones completes his repertoire with a developing changeup, a pitch that has been the focus of he and the Yankees' pitching coaches since the Instructional Leagues last fall. His changeup also averages about 81-83 MPH and should be a big time pitch for him as he progresses through the minor league system.

Pitching. As we've already mentioned, Jones' success in his early years was solely due to his tremendous command. Not being able to throw as hard as he would have liked, Jones had to be all about the location. As he has improved his mechanics and his velocity since his high school days, his control has never wavered. The end result is a pitcher with an average MLB fastball with fantastic control and good location of his pitches. He's not a strikeout pitcher. With his great command and ability to work all over the plate, Jones is up on the mound trying to throw the timing off of the batters and allow them to put the ball into play. He makes the hitters work and never gives in. Jones is a gamer on the mound and works very quickly, which helps keep his defense behind him very alert.

Projection. Jones is a big presence on the mound and with his aggressiveness, he's able to keep his pitch counts low. Big-bodied and strong, Jones is an innings eater and projects to be a solid starting pitcher down the road. He does not throw hard enough to be a prototypical front-end starter, but his command is impeccable. In fact, some scouts have compared Jones to Greg Maddux because of his pinpoint control. Right now, Jones projects to be a very solid middle-of-the-rotation starter down the road where he could truly excel.

ETA. 2007. The combination of Jones' fantastic professional debut in 2004, his mature approach on the mound, and the depth of starting pitching prospects at the lower levels, indicates that Jones will most likely begin the 2005 season in the Florida State League with the Tampa Yankees. A strong first half of the season could bring a promotion to AA-Trenton by season's end, which would put Jones within a year away from the Bronx after that point. As polished as his game is, he should be the first 2004 Yankees' draftee to make it to the Majors.

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