2016 MLB Draft Scouting Report: Connor Jones

By: Burke Granger

Connor Jones – RHP – Virginia  6’3″ 200.  Class: Junior.  DOB:  October 10, 1994.  Last Drafted:  2013 (San Diego Padres – 21th Round).

Scouted:  Virginia Cavaliers @ Pittsburgh Panthers, April 30, 2016.  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

A product of Great Bridge HS in Chesapeake Va., Baseball America ranked Jones as the 34th best prospect in the 2013 draft, making him a borderline first round pick.  Jones’ commitment to Virginia was so strong however, that he wrote a letter to all 30 teams informing them of his intention to follow through on his commitment to go to college.  This letter obviously caused Jones to slide in the draft and though the Padres took a flier on him in the 21st round, he chose to put professional ball on the back burner and attend school.

After a freshman season in which Jones made 25 appearances (1 start), Jones stepped into a starting role for the Cavaliers in 2014.  Pitching for the eventual National Champions as the Saturday starter in a rotation that included first round pick Nathan Kirby (40th Overall – Brewers), Jones pitched a team high 115.2 innings

After such an increased workload between his first two seasons, Jones wisely took the summer off despite an invitation to pitch for the Collegiate National Team.

Now a junior, Jones entered the season regarded as a first round prospect and has been pitching as such.  Jones is currently tied for the national lead with 9 wins and an impressive 1.95 ERA.  Though Jones has improved his walk rate from last season 4.05 to 3.30, his strikeout rate has dropped more significantly from 8.79 to 6.25 per 9.

STATISTICS

Through June 7, 2016.

YEAR

CLASS

W-L

ERA

G

S

IP

H

K

BB

2014

Fr.

4-1

3.13

25

1

54.2

42

40

23

2015

So.

7-3

3.19

18

0

115.2

115.2

113

52

2016

Jr.

   11-1    2.34      15       0    103.2      85      72      38

REPERTOIRE:

Fastball:  Jones relies on a heavy 90-92 mph sinker that he can touch 95 mph when he airs it out.  Jones’ success is not predicated on strikeouts as much as many college pitches given the strength of the sinker that generates ground balls and generally weak contact.  In addition to sinking action, Jones will flash some arm side run on a two seamer.  Jones holds his velocity reasonably well.  For the 108 pitch complete game in which I was in attendance, Jones was working at 90-91 mph in the final inning.

Slider:  His best secondary offering, Jones throws his slider between 83-87 mph.  Sharp and biting, this has the makings of an above average pitch.  Jones doesn’t discriminate.  He’s as likely to bury this pitch at the feet of lefties as he is to get righties to chase this pitch off the outside corner.

Curveball:  Primarily a “show me” offering that’s used in deference to his slider, if there is a pitch that Jones has that is susceptible to hard contact – this is it.  The curveball lacks depth and doesn’t have the deception of the slider.

Changeup:  I didn’t see Jones use his changeup often, but when I did it was straight and with occasional late dive in the 84-85 mph range.

Delivery:  As you might expect, Jones employs the traditional Virginia squat delivery that previous Cavalier pitchers have displayed.  Doing so emphasizes a consistent strong push off with the back leg.  The 3/4 delivery looks balanced and comfortable with easy velocity.  I’ve seen video of Jones as recently as this year like this one from the guys at 2080 Baseball where his arm action was long, but he was more compact in this outing.

Control/Command:  Jones does an average job of locating his fastball to both sides of the plate and he also elevates his fastball for swings and misses late in counts.  Of the off speed pitches, Jones demonstrated a good feel for locating the slider.

FUTURE:  Striking out 6 per 9 isn’t going to get you to the front of many rotations, but Jones has polish and pitchabiltiy matched only by maybe Logan Shore in this college class.  While he doesn’t have the highest ceiling in this class, Jones is more efficient than most of his peers and could move quickly into the back end of a major league rotation.

DISCLAIMER:  It’s important to note that I’m not a scout.  I don’t have the training or expertise that they do.  I do however actually go to see these guys play live, which is more than you’ll get from many online “Scouting Reports”.  I also talk to scouts when I’m there.  While scouts reserve their reports for their employer, I can share my thoughts with you, the reader.

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