- Full name Justin Wyatt Jones
- Born 09/25/1984 in Norfolk, VA
- Profile Ht.: 6'3" / Wt.: 215 / Bats: L / Throws: L
- School Floyd E. Kellam
Drafted in the 2nd round (62nd overall) by the Chicago Cubs in 2002 (signed for $625,000).
View Draft ReportJones didn't always pitch well for the scouting directors and crosscheckers who flocked to Virginia Beach to see him and Upton this spring. Nonetheless, the 6-foot-4, 170-pound lefthander elevated his stock from last fall and could go as high as the second round. He's all about projection. Once his delivery is cleaned up and he gets stronger, his velocity should jump consistently to 92-94 mph. It now ranges from 86-91. He has the makings of a quality breaking ball but needs to add a changeup. Jones has committed to Tennessee but should sign if he's selected in the first five rounds.
Organization Prospect Rankings
For their part (Doug Mientkiewicz) in the four-team Nomar Garciaparra trade in July 2004, the Twins received Jones from the Cubs. He was shut down with elbow discomfort in 2004 and missed the first half of last season with a strained elbow ligament. Once he got back on the mound, he began to display the ability that drove him as high as No. 2 on the Cubs' prospect list two years ago. With the help of minor league pitching coordinator Rick Knapp, Jones was able to eliminate a mechanical hitch in which his elbow would fly up too high in mid-delivery. As a result, his fastball returned to 92-93 mph and gave him a third weapon to go with his plus curveball and advanced changeup. Jones never had arm surgery, but he missed time in each of the last three seasons and has just 288 innings in four years as a pro. It took him some time to buy into the Twins' mindset, but now that he has he could start to gather momentum if he can stay healthy. He'll see Double-A at some point in 2006.
Ranked No. 2 on Baseball America's deep Cubs prospect list a year ago, Jones was acquired in the four-team Nomar Garciaparra/Orlando Cabrera trade that cost Minnesota Doug Mientkiewicz. Jones wasn't very impressive in his limited Twins debut, and he complained of elbow discomfort. Numerous tests turned up nothing definitive, and Jones was sent home from instructional league without having pitched. When he's right, his fastball sits between 89-92 mph and touches 94. He also has shown a plus curve, an advanced changeup and the makings of a splitter. Jones has never had arm surgery, but his durability is a major question after he has been shut down late the past two seasons. Jones was one of the youngest pitchers in the low Class A Midwest League in 2003 and he figures to return there to start 2005. Minnesota still isn't sure what it has in Jones but hopes he stays healthy so it can find out.
Jones looked like a possible first-round pick early in 2002 but didn't pitch well in front of crosscheckers, so the Cubs were able to grab him in the second. They planned on pitching him at short-season Boise in 2003 before injuries created an opening at low Class A Lansing. Jones excelled as one of the youngest pitchers in the Midwest League. His 89-94 mph fastball and his curveball are both plus pitches. With his age and frame, he projects to add velocity. His changeup is advanced for his age, as is most of his package. He also throws an occasional splitter. Lefties went 5-for-58 (.086) with no extra-base hits against him in 2003. Like several of Chicago's top pitching prospects, Jones didn't make it through the full season. He was shut down twice with a tired arm and didn't pitch after Aug. 5. He didn't need surgery but needs to get stronger. His command can get better. The Cubs have sought a good lefty starter for years, and Jones will race Andy Sisco and Luke Hagerty to Wrigley Field. Jones should be 100 percent for spring training and will spend 2004 at high Class A Daytona.
Because he hailed from the same area as B.J. Upton, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 draft, Jones often pitched in front of scouting directors and national crosscheckers last spring. Jones performed unevenly yet still went in the second round based on his projectability. He didn't waste any time delivering on his potential after signing. He won the Arizona League ERA title as his fastball jumped from 86-91 mph to 90-93. His curveball became more consistent and he wasn't afraid to throw it at any count. He also showed tremendous poise for a 17-year-old. Jones still needs to refine his slurvy slider, changeup and control, and he has plenty of time to do so. He should add velocity as he fills out his lanky 6-foot-4, 180-pound frame. The Cubs have been searching for quality lefthanded starters for years, and they have three intriguing ones coming through the pipeline in Andy Sisco, Luke Hagerty and Jones.
Minor League Top Prospects
The best is yet to come for Jones. There's plenty of projectability remaining in his 6-foot-4, 180-pound frame. As he gets stronger, he'll be able to work more than the 71 innings he totaled this year before being shut down with a tired arm. His present looks pretty good, though. Originally ticketed for short-season Boise at age 18, he was called to fill a void in Lansing in mid-April. He gave up more than three earned runs in only one of his 16 starts. Jones has precocious command of a nifty four-pitch repertoire. His two main pitches are his 89-94 mph fastball and his curveball. He also has a good changeup for his age and a splitter.
Jones, the Cubs' second-round draft pick, came out of the same Virginia Beach region that also produced B.J. Upton, who went No. 2 overall to the Devil Rays. After an inconsistent spring as a high school senior, Jones limited hitters to a .181 average and no homers while striking out 11.3 per nine innings. Managers say Jones only has scratched the surface of his ability. "He's got a great demeanor, a 90-92 mph fastball and can throw his curve at any point in the count," Martinez said. "Down the road, I can see him in the mid-90s. He's got a lot going for him."