Jared Jones Shows Two-Way Ability Ahead Of His Time
CARY, N.C.—Jared Jones doesn’t want to be just another good player.
He wants to be an all-time great.
Jones was one of 80 high school players at the Tournament of Stars showcase last week vying for a spot on the 2018 Team USA 18U National Team. On Saturday, he was selected as one of 43 players to go to team trials, having survived the first round of cuts.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Southern California recruit hails from Whittier, Calif., and attends La Mirada High School, where he is both a righthanded pitcher and outfielder.
As a sophomore, he had an outstanding year, earning a spot on Baseball America’s High School All-American third-team. He also garnered an invitation to the Tournament of Stars in Cary, N.C., to showcase his skills against other great high school talents—despite being a member of the 2020 draft class.
But Jones wants to be better than every single one of them. He’s on a mission to be the best, something he and his high school head coach, Jimmy Zurn, have spoken about.
“He’s going to put in his time,” Zurn said. “He wants to be considered one of the greats of all time. We’ve had that conversation.”
This season, Jones led his school to a 26-4-1 record, excelling on the mound and at the plate for his program.
Throwing a plus fastball that his coach says has hit 96 mph to along with a slider and curveball, Jones went 7-2 this season, and allowed just eight runs in 69.2 innings, amounting to a 0.80 ERA. He also struck out 99 batters in that span and only gave up 37 hits.
Jones was equally great at the plate for La Mirada, posting a .431 batting line with 13 doubles, three home runs and 30 RBIs. He possesses fast hands and quick bat speed with some power in his 5-foot-11, 181-pound frame to boot.
Jones got a chance to show off at both positions at TOS.
On Tuesday, he made his lone appearance on the mound, allowing three hits in two innings of work while walking two batters and striking out a pair.
Jones started in the field on all three days and had his best at-bat on Thursday, when he blasted a high fastball to the deepest part of center field, showing off his strength. By the time the ball was back to the infield, Jones was at third base with a triple thanks to his plus speed, with short but quick strides around the bases.
Offensively, Jones said he is working on catching up to mid-90s fastballs, but Zurn doesn’t think it will be much of a problem for him.
“I’ve seen him turn around low- to mid-90s fastballs and yank them foul,” Zurn said. “Turn them, just being quick.”
Jones has worked hard in the weight room this season in his quest to drive those mid-90s fastballs. In fact, it’s his work ethic overall that separates him from others, his coach believes.
“He’s one of those kids that, you see them every now and then,” Zurn said. “Most of them you’ll see them out there, they have a self-drive. He’s obviously one of the greatest players I’ve ever witnessed at this age level and you know we’ve had some good ones come through La Mirada. But he just does the extra.”
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The former Washington starter has yet to allow a run, and between 20 and 30 area scouts showed up at his last start.
Whether it be his work lifting weights, practicing outfield throws or getting in extra batting practice, Jones is doing whatever it takes on his mission to be the best.
“That’s why he’s going to be one of the great ones,” Zurn said.
But being the best player on his team, he’s also needed to be a leader in addition to being a star. While that would be a tough adjustment for most players, Zurn said Jones took the role in stride, thanks to the leadership he received from three seniors when he was just a freshman. The three players, Kevin Kendall, R.J. Lan, and Chad Wilson, all play Division I baseball now for UCLA, Texas Christian, and Fresno State, respectively.
“Just a good group that took him under his wing while they all graduated,” Zurn said. “So Jared really took initiative, even as a sophomore.”
And Jones has lofty goals for his final two years in high school.
“Next year, make (Under Armour All-America Game),” Jones said. “Hopefully be back (at TOS) again.”
In addition, on the mound Jones wants to continue working on getting his fastball up to 96 mph, something he calls his “biggest step.” Jones will continue to play as both a pitcher and outfielder and his coach has no doubt he can make it doing both.
“I think he can do both at the highest level,” Zurn said.
As just a rising junior who won’t attend college until 2020, Jones has a lot of time to continue to grow and will likely add more muscle in the future.
But no matter how much Jones improves, he will not be satisfied, because he has lofty goals—to be an all-time great—with his coach going so far as saying he will be a top selection in two years at the 2020 MLB Draft.
“In two years from now I like to think that he’s getting his named called within the first couple picks of that draft,” Zurn said. “I really think that’s somewhere where I don’t think anyone would be shocked. I know I wouldn’t.”