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Showcase | Story | 6/12/2019

Jones turns on jets at National

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Jared Jones (Perfect Game)

PHOENIX – Just like most of the other 290 highly regarded class of 2020 prospects that will perform in front of hundreds of MLB scouts and college recruiters in attendance at this week’s Perfect Game National Showcase at Chase Field, Californian Jared Jones came in expecting nothing but the best.

“This should be a lot of fun playing with people that I’ve never met before and getting to meet them is a pretty special opportunity,” Jones told PG on the event’s opening day Thursday. “And playing baseball here in the Diamondbacks’ stadium, it’s pretty awesome.”

Awesome, indeed. And that’s a good word to use when describing the prospects who came through the domed stadium’s doors the first two days of the showcase. It’s been a special collection of ballplayers with many, many more coming through those same doors over the next three days.

Jones was right here at the outset, eager to show those in attendance that he is deserving of the No. 4 overall national ranking the PG scouting department has bestowed on him. He is also the No. 1-ranked 2020 right-handed pitcher in the country but it might not be wise to pigeon-hole the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Jones as a pitcher-only quite yet.

He hails from Whittier, Calif., and he just completed his junior year at La Mirada (Calif.) High School. He could rightly be considered the top two-way player at this year’s PG National, and his workout numbers, batting practice session and pitching performance on Thursday seemed to prove that out.

Jones tied an event record with a 100 mph throw from the outfield (Michael Gettys also threw 100 mph at the 2013 National), recorded a 97 mph exit velo with his swing and ran a 6.75-second 60-yard dash, a top-30 effort among the players in first reporting group (four teams).

He then started the PG Maroon’s first game of the event and delivered a 96 mph fastball, which tied for the fourth best effort among the first reporting group. Texas right-hander Jared Kelley (No. 5-ranked, Texas commit) topped the first group at 98 mph; Oregon righty Mick Abel (No. 8, Oregon State) hit 97 and Florida right-hander Victor Mederos (No. 22, Miami), Virginia left-hander Nate Savino (No. 14, Virginia) and Indiana righty Charez Butcher (No. 43, Tennessee) matched Jones’ 96 mph.

A PG scout blogged: (Jones) showed a plus fastball on the mound ranging from 93-96 mph with a sharp curveball in the upp-70s and 90 mph sinking changeup. His delivery is relatively easy with an online working arm and lots of jump out of his hand.

That short report didn’t address his hitting skills or fielding skills.

“I feel like I am (a two-way guy),” Jones said. “I usually can read the ball pretty good off pitchers and if I get that first-pitch fastball I can usually jump on it.”

Being both a pitcher and a hitter, Jones believes, gives him a better idea of the strike zone when he’s pitching, and he can use that knowledge to know which pitches are going to be called strikes during his at-bats.

As his college recruitment picked up the pace and he sat down with the coaches at Southern California – where he ultimately committed – he said the subject of continuing to do both was one of the first things that was discussed. They were receptive to the idea and he thinks he could even develop into a middle-of-the-order hitter for the Trojans.

There’s evidence to back that up, albeit at the high school level. For a second straight year, Jones was named the Whittier Daily News all-area Player of the Year. He was the Suburban League’s Most Valuable Player and a CIF-Southern Section Division I first-team pick.

Jones finished 7-1 with a 0.77 ERA this season after going 7-2 with a 0.80 as a sophomore in 2018. He also hit .457 (43-for-94) this season with nine extra-base hits (3 HRs), 16 RBI, 42 runs and 22 stolen bases.

“Being the best player in the area, everyone kind of looks up to you in a way,” Jones said. “If I do one wrong thing it’s going to look bad on the entire area, so I always try to be the best person both baseball-wise and away from baseball.”

La Mirada lost to eventual SS D-I champion Cypress – the No. 1 team in the PG High School Top 50 National Rankings – in the semifinals of the playoffs and finished 26-7. In a side note, Jones’ La Mirada teammate, No. 146-ranked catcher/first baseman Emilio Morales, was a teammate of Jones’ on PG Purple this week.

The National Showcase is the 12th PG event at which Jones has played with all the others being tournament action while playing with Jared Sandler’s Southern California-based BPA organization; he’s been an all-tournament select three times.

“I started playing with (Sandler) when I was 10 or 11 years old, and we just kind of liked the way he coaches so we stuck with him,” Jones said.

Baseball has always been the athletic Jones’ main sport and a lot of that is probably because the game runs in his family.

His dad, corner-infielder Keith Jones, was a 22nd-round  pick of the Diamondbacks in the 1997 MLB June Amateur draft out of Cal State Fullerton and played a couple of years in the minors. Cousins Randy Flores, a left-hander, enjoyed eight seasons in the major leagues, five with the Cardinals, and another cousin, Ron Flores, was in the big leagues for three years, all with the Athletics.

“They definitely had a big impact on me,” Jones said. “It makes me feel like I want to go farther than them and play for a lot longer.”

Jones has played with USA Baseball national teams for three years at the 14u, 15u and 17u levels, and called it a great experience, as can be expected. He also looks at his attendance at the PG National as another extremely important stepping-stone that will help him get to where he wants to be because it gave him the opportunity to compete with and against the top prospects from coast-to-coast.

“If it’s a PG tournament or a PG showcase I always feel like I’m playing against the best in the country,” he said. “Most of us are all friends here; we’ve know each other from past (events) so competing with them is pretty fun.”

There’s a good chance Jones might take a step back here at the beginning of the summer to give that cannon of an arm of his a much deserved rest. But just like most of the other 290 highly regarded class of 2020 prospects that will perform in front of hundreds of MLB scouts and college recruiters in attendance here this week, he would like at least one more opportunity to showcase his talents – at the PG All-American Classic not all that far from his home, in San Diego.

“Being picked for anything makes you feel good but being picked for the All-American game with Perfect Game would probably be one of the top things out there this summer,” he said. It probably won’t be a very long waiting game.

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