Scouting Yankees Prospect #50: Jason Jones
Jason Jones has reinvented himself on the mound
Jason Jones has reinvented himself on the mound

Posted Nov 16, 2006


The New York Yankees selected RHP Jason Jones in the 4th round of the 2004 MLB Draft out of Liberty University. Possessing some of the best command in the farm system over the last three years, Jones has been able to recreate himself on the mound and his progression is still on an upward climb.

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Vital Statistics:
Name: Jason Jones
Position: Pitcher
DOB: November 20, 1982
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 225
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Jason Jones had one of the more brutal second-halves a year ago a pitching prospect could have, going 0-5 with a 12.52 ERA in his final seven starts, bringing his overall season mark to 5-13 with a 5.68 ERA with the Tampa Yankes.

While most critics look solely at the numbers, the fact was the Yankees had essentially broken Jason Jones down, mechanically, to build him back up again. It was a rebuilding year with his mechanics in 2005 and he saw the benefits in 2006.

"Well it was definitely a turnaround from the year before, the exact opposite record, 13-5 compared to 5-13 the year before," Jones recently told PinstripesPlus.com. "I'm glad I got the promotion up [to Trenton] and I'm glad I did well at Tampa."

For the stat-lovers, Jones' numbers couldn't have been any better in Tampa. He went 9-2 with a 2.55 ERA in the Florida State League before earning a promotion to double-A in mid-July. Making arguably the biggest minor league jump, from high-A to double-A, Jones struggled initially.

"Trenton was definitely a good learning experience," said the Liberty alum. "I definitely got a couple of steps ahead of the game by having that chance to get up there. I didn't too bad out there, of course I'd like to do better, but I definitely learned from some mistakes and overall I think it was a pretty good year and I want to continue that into next year."

"The hitters, with that extra experience they have, definitely are better," Jones continued. "I think it was a big transition. For some guys, it takes longer than others. You don't get away with the same mistakes. Every level you go up you don't get away with it as much."

"There, I really had to pitch inside. I could pitch them inside for effect to move them off the plate. I can contain low and away outside, which is fine, but if they are sitting on that and looking for that, they could just poke that the other way."

"At the lower levels, you can get away with trying to pull an outside pitch. Hitters get themselves out more at the lower levels. But up there, you really have to get the hitters out, challenge hitters. I knew had to do that but I really didn't start doing that until the last couple games of the season."

Baseball is about making adjustments. And while some critics will point out Jones' lack of strikeouts or velocity on the radar gun, the fact is he has proven he can made adjustments with the best of them, radical adjustments at that.

Not only did he reconstruct his mechanics a year ago, but the Yankees took away his curveball and had him learn to master a splitter instead in the hopes of giving him a swing-and-miss pitch.

"I liked throwing it," Jones said of his curveball. "I kind of wish sometimes that I did throw it, but it's not as good a pitch for me as my slider. My slider was always my go-to pitch, my swing-and-miss pitch. My curveball was decent. It wasn't anything great. It wasn't a Phil Hughes curveball or anything close to that."

Jones wishes he had the chance to continue working on his curveball because the fact is, all of his other pitches have gotten better since signing with the Yankees, and he feels that, while his curveball would still need a lot of work, it could have become a good pitch for him.

Instead, the Yankees have reincorporated his splitter, a pitch that he once threw but went away from in his first couple of years with the Yankees.

"I'm very comfortable with it," Jones said of his splitter. "It's a pitch that I worked on most of the year and I think early on I didn't have much confidence in it and left it up a couple of times."

"It's funny how it works when you're pitching with confidence, and have confidence in a pitch, you sometimes may leave it up but they're not going to hit it as far. But when you have a little bit of doubt with a pitch, or a little bit of concern where you're thinking should I really throw this, it just always seems to work out that they are going to hit it pretty far."

"Early on I didn't have much confidence, mainly because I was working on it. Then I got to use it a lot, especially up in Trenton. Matt Childers kind of pitches like me and he uses the splitter a lot and I got to watch how he used it."

"For me, I got to use it as a strikeout pitch but I can also use that in my repertoire to throw in almost any count to get ground balls. I'm fairly comfortable with it now. It's still a pitch that I'm working on. I don't think it's perfect yet."

Re-armed with a splitter that can go along with his slider as a put-out pitch, and with his mechanics ions better than they were in 2005, the final step in becoming big league ready is rediscovering his lost velocity.

Able to sit 88-92 MPH with his two-seam fastball in years prior, Jones lost about three to four miles-per-hour with his fastball in 2006, mostly because he was focusing on his new mechanics and getting movement on his pitches.

"Obviously I'm not trying to blow guys away, and that's something I'm going to be working on next year, but I think some of it is mechanical," Jones said of his decrease in velocity. "Sometimes just the littlest things in your mechanics could mean 2-3 MPH."

"I know when I got up to double-A this year, it wasn't necessarily on purpose that I was trying to take it off [velocity], I was trying to get more movement. My thing was, just trying to aim the ball and get a perfect spot instead of sometimes, when I've got two strikes on a guy, just letting one go and ripping back and throwing it."

"I'm not concerned with being injured or having arm trouble or anything like that. I've never been big on the radar gun or feel like I have to throw harder. I know it helps from just watching guys in the big leagues, but I was kind of relying on movement."

"I throw a lot of sinkers, my two-seamer, which is always less miles-per-hour anyway. I felt like I was trying to get a lot of ground balls with my sinkers, but there's also situations like where Wang throws a sinker at 94 MPH, which is what I'm trying to get to. Maybe not necessarily 94, but 91-93 where I used to be."

"Mechanically there are some things I'm trying to improve on and get stronger," he continued. "It's not that the velocity isn't there, I've just got to use my body and get my mechanics to get my velocity up, which I don't think is going to be a problem."

A very capable starter in the Yankee farm system, and once projecting as a solid fifth starter at the big league level, the recent influx of power arms over the last two seasons have changed his projected role.

"I prefer to start, just because you're on a set schedule for the most part," the soon to be 24-year old admitted. "You get your workout in, your routine in. I like to routine as a pitcher and it also allows me to do things like charting."

"I think I can learn more from the game watching from the dugout rather than way down in the bullpen. You can't see hitters especially and everything they do. So I actually prefer, and like, starting."

But with the Yankee rotation arguably harder to crack than in most organizations, and considering the number of hurlers New York possesses with better velocities and command, Jones realizes his chances with the Yankees are better suited coming out of the bullpen.

"Where I see myself fitting, with the Yankees and their system, I'm not against relieving by any means, and like I said I'd rather start, but I think my best chances of getting up there [the big leagues] are in the bullpen just because of the starters we have in front of me, and that's not to say there aren't relievers that are in front of me, but I think they see me more as a reliever."

"I don't know if it will be a deal like Sean Henn where they just move him there or anything like that. Honestly though, I throw out of the pen or the rotation, it doesn't matter to me. Getting to the big leagues is the goal. Whatever role that means for me is okay with me," Jones concluded.

Year

Team

W-L

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2006

Trenton

4-3

50.1

65

18

28

4.83

2006

Tampa

9-2

88.1

88

17

52

2.55

2005

Tampa

5-13

128.1

171

20

76

5.68

2004

Battle Creek

3-1

31.1

38

3

19

2.87

2004

Staten Island

2-3

48.0

42

3

27

2.44



Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Splitter, Changeup.

Fastball. As mentioned above, Jason Jones lost a little bit of velocity through the majority of the 2006 season, a side-effect of focusing on his delivery and movement with his pitches. In previous years, his fastball sat comfortably in the 88-92 MPH range, and while his fastballs weren't nearly as quick this past year, he did touch 90 MPH in his final game of the season, so he is showing signs he can rediscover his velocity. Jones throws mostly two-seam fastballs and he gets opposing batters to slam ground balls into the dirt.

Other Pitches. As mentioned earlier, he gave up throwing a curveball in favor of using a splitter, which has become a strikeout pitch for him. Throw in the fact that his best pitch is his devastating slider, a pitch that sits 81-83 MPH and has excellent late breaking action that tails away from right-handed batters and in on lefties, Jones is now armed with two put-away pitches. He does throw a changeup at times, but has seen his percentage of true changeups drop in favor of the splitter.

Pitching. Jones is an extremely intelligent pitcher who is also very coachable. While he doesn't light up the radar guns with fastballs in the high-90's, he more than makes up for it with his desire and tenacity on the mound. Throw in his plus control, you have the makings of a winning pitcher. The 2006 version of Jones, which is improving by the day, is light years different than the pitcher coming out Liberty. He has as solid a three-pitch repertoire - two-seam fastball, slider, and splitter - as you'll find and he has excellent command of all three pitches. He won't pile up the strikeout totals, but like Chieng-Ming Wang, he'll frustrate opposing batters and get them to bounce out to the defense behind him.

Projection. Still a very capable back-end rotation type of starter, the increasing depth of quality arms in the Yankee farm system has changed his projected role with the Yankees. If he can rediscover his velocity and get his two-seamer consistently in the low-90's, with his plus slider and splitter with plus potential, Jones projects to be an excellent change of pace type of reliever coming out of the bullpen for the Yankees.

ETA. 2008. We said a year ago that his arrival at the big league level should be sometime in 2008. A year later, nothing has changed with his ETA. Jones will be back in Trenton to start the 2007 season, and depending his minor league role [starter or reliever], he should break the Yankee bullpen by 2008 in some capacity.

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