LAKE WORTH, FL- Speedsters and potential shortstops aren’t easy for baseball scouts to find, so when one shows up out of nowhere it’s a pleasant surprise.
Mycal Jones transferred from the University of North Florida to Miami Dade Junior College this year and is a sophomore by eligibility. He was already an older freshman for the Ospreys in 2007 and was then declared academically ineligible for 2008. Turning 22 at the end of next month, Jones will be the equivalent age of a typical college senior come draft time.
Though he wasn’t on any crosschecker lists coming into the spring, Jones has been heavily scouted since and is now a likely first-three round pick. There were some 25 scouts on hand for Wednesday’s matchup at Palm Beach Junior College, about six of whom stayed to the end with unfulfilled hopes of a relief appearance by Miami Dade righty Rey Cotilla,
Jones showed good actions at shortstop and made five plays, going in all directions. He went well to the hole, up the middle, charging, and even moved easily over his head to chase a pop-up that ended up dropping in. Jones makes quick glove-to-hand transfers and has an average arm with a short release when he needs to let it loose. The hands work okay, he’s smooth across the bag, and he has the body control to make solid throws from different positions. Scouts question his ability to stay at shortstop (as they have, understandably, for every player who has ever stepped on a field) and it’s possible he moves off. But from this game, I think he has a real chance to stay there and be solid. If not, the actions and instincts should make him a very good second baseman and also a sound centerfielder.
That’s not the part of his game I would be concerned with as a scout.
The righthanded hitting Jones has put up sterling junior college numbers (hitting .456-12-47 in 169 AB). He leads the team in hitting and homeruns, is tied for the RBI lead, and is second with 27 stolen bases in 33 attempts.
But despite the huge junior college stats, there is reasonable concern about Jones’s future with wood against pro pitchers. Jones has a narrow, upright stance, and he doesn’t load well with his hands. His present-day bat-speed is well below average as is his raw power when translated to wood. Jones does have good hand-eye skills and can make adjustments to junk. But whether he is strong enough to swing the wood with authority all the way up to the big leagues is in debate, especially starting from his advanced age of 22.
It may seem odd that the bat would be the concern when he puts up such huge numbers, but that’s why scouts go and evaluate a player in person instead of making assumptions from statistics.
In a 6-1 loss (Wednesday, April 22nd), Jones’s line at the plate was 1-2 with a double and two walks. He struck out in his first at-bat on three pitches. Jones showed a poor approach in that at bat, chasing a ball high out of the zone and also a “pitcher-friendly” inside breaking ball. For strike two, Jones was way late fouling off an 86 MPH Sean Koecheler fastball. In his third at-bat, Jones hit a double down the right field line on a mid-80s outside fastball; in a wide turn, he touched first base in 4.51 seconds. From merely watching him run on this day, I can give him 60-65 speed, but I did not witness or time the 70-80 that some scouts have reported.
His club was rallying and after his double, Jones represented an important run. Someone hit a single to center and for some reason, Jones didn’t get a good jump off of second. He actually slowed down approaching third, rounded the bag, then realized there was going to be a play at the plate. He put on the burners and made a good, hard slide, but was tagged out in a bang-bang play. Had he run hard from the crack of the bat, Jones undoubtedly would have slid in safely. In this instance, his plus speed wasn’t usable in the game situation.
The buzz on Mycal Jones is real and there are enough teams who like him to take an early stab in the first three rounds. My guess is that they put him at shortstop in the beginning and try to raise him as a leadoff hitter.
OTHER NOTES: Dade’s Rey Cotilla (PGX #305) didn’t get into the game, though he did warm up in the pen during the ninth inning, bringing a handful of scouts down the line…. Dade freshman outfielder Jabari Blash is getting a lot of looks. The Virgin Islands native is a loose-bodied 6-5, 180, with some easy actions. I graded his arm out as average and projected it to plus from the pregame and he appears to be just below an average runner. Blash played designated hitter today; at the plate, he has a long swing and still an unrefined approach. There are scouts who like his upside and power potential, so he might go in the middle rounds and be someone’s project. On the year, Blash is hitting .364-10-33 in 99 AB…. The best arm of the day, by far, belonged to Dade rightfielder Yoandy Barosso, who might have been the reason Blash was at DH. I graded his arm to a 70 as he threw a series of lasers in the pregame and then another to third base during the game. Barosso is a below-average runner and the swing has some holes, but I imagine there is some pro interest. I wondered aloud what the 6-1, 200 righty would look like on the mound…. Palm Beach JC’s best prospect is lefthanded pitcher Mike Rayl, but he did not pitch on Wednesday. They are loaded with future D1 NCAA players, some of whom will likely be drafted after playing at that level.