Bonus cantos is no bueno
Free baseball is a great thing most of the time – except if you’re a Yankee fan watching the team at the friendly confines. Following their 3-2 loss in extra innings to the A’s on Tuesday night, no team has more extra-inning losses at home since the start of last season than the Yankees (eight). This latest disaster was their first loss to the A’s in the 11th inning or later at Yankee Stadium since August 9, 2002.
What made this loss so deflating – aside from their continued inability to cash in on scoring opportunities – was that the Yankees wasted Michael Pineda‘s best start of the season. He delivered six strong innings, limiting Oakland to two runs while striking out seven. That lowered his career ERA against the A’s to 2.25 in four starts, the sixth-lowest by any pitcher with than many starts versus the A’s since his debut in 2011.
Johnny Barbato gave up the game-winning hit with two outs in the top of the 11th, ending a run of brilliance to start his rookie season. He had pitched at least one inning in each of his first five outings, allowing zero runs and no more than one hit in each game. The only Yankee in the last 100 years with a longer streak like that to begin his major-league career was Joba Chamberlain in 2007.
The definition of insanity is …
Well, at least the Yankees are consistent — a consistently bad and frustrating team right now, that is. The Yankees fell into last place in the AL East after losing to the A’s, 5-2, in the middle game of this three-game series. The last time they were in the basement of the division this late into the season (game No. 13 or later) was 2008.
They keep finding new ways to lose, adding boneheaded baserunning plays (no, Didi, no) on Wednesday night to the stable of offensive woes, lack of clutch hitting and defensive miscues that has defined this awful stretch of baseball in the past week.
Nathan Eovaldi‘s performance was marred by one bad inning, but otherwise he spun a bare-minimum quality start (6 innings, 3 earned runs) with seven strikeouts and had probably his best effort of the season. It was his seventh straight start striking out at least seven batters, tying the longest such streak in franchise history, done previously by CC Sabathia (2009, 2011), Mike Mussina (2003) and Ron Guidry (1978).
The most obscure statistical nugget of the game probably came from the visiting squad, when the A’s were forced to have pitcher Kendall Graveman bat cleanup after infielder Danny Valencia got injured and the A’s lost their DH. Graveman became the first starting pitcher to bat in a game at Yankee Stadium since the designated hitter rule was enacted in 1973.
Despite scoring first in each of the three games in this series, the Yankees were swept by the A’s after dropping Thursday night’s contest, 7-3. It is the first time Oakland has swept the Yankees at Yankee Stadium since June 9-11, 2006. Their 5-9 record overall is their worst 14-game start since 2005; the only other season in the Wild Card era that they lost nine of their first 14 games was 1997.
Following the loss, the Yankees are now an unfathomable 2-7 when drawing first blood this season; last year, they won 75 percent of the games in which they scored first. They’ve held a lead in 12 of 14 games this season, yet have gone just 5-7 in those 12 contests. Their seven blown losses are tied with the Blue Jays and Braves for the most in the majors.
Once again a Yankee starter — this time Luis Severino — delivered a solid outing, yet the Yankees couldn’t capitalize on the strong pitching performance. This game marked the seventh time that a Yankee starter allowed three runs or fewer and the team lost the game, tied with the Twins for the most such games by a rotation this season.
The most shocking part of this loss, though, was that the supposed strength of this team — the almighty bullpen — proved to be a weakness (along with the perennially slumping offense). They surrendered five runs in three innings, and four of those scores came via home runs. The Yankees bullpen had faced 173 batters in the first 13 games and had yielded just one homer, tied for the fewest given up in the majors entering Thursday’s slate.
I have 14 questions and 13 answers in the mailbag this week. As always, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is where you want to send any questions or comments throughout the week.
T.J. asks: I might have missed this over the course of Spring Training, but while I was perusing the Yankees 40-Man Roster, there was no Slade Heathcott to be found. That led me to the Scranton roster, where Heathcott is listed, but states that he is not on the 40-Man. Was he outrighted during the spring or is this some kind of conspiracy?
I have no idea what is going on with this. Heathcott has not been listed on the 40-man roster on the official site since being sent out in Spring Training, yet the Yankees have not made an official announcement about him removed from the 40-man, and teams announce every transaction. They send out little one sentence press releases like “so and so has been outrighted to Triple-A.”
That never happened with Heathcott, which leads me to believe he is still on the 40-man. Furthermore, when the Yankees sent Slade to minor league camp, the announced he has been optioned to Triple-A, and you can only option 40-man players. Non-40-man guys are “reassigned,” not “optioned.” Mistakes have happened before — a year or two ago Tyler Austin was not listed on the 40-man for a few days — but this has been going on three weeks already. You’d think it would be fixed by now.
There’s also this: why would the Yankees remove Heathcott from the 40-man? They didn’t need a spot at any time. Everyone who made the Opening Day roster was already on the 40-man. Furthermore, Aroldis Chapman‘s suspension cleared a 40-man spot, so the Yankees have been at 39 players since the end of camp. And even if they needed a spot, Greg Bird and Bryan Mitchell are 60-day DL candidates. This has to some kind of clerical error. Heathcott should still be on the 40-man.
Chris asks: Would the Yankees Entertain trading Betances because he’ll be getting a huge raise after this year through arbitration? And what do you think they can get for him?? I know it’s crazy talk but I was just curious.
Damian asks: If everything but the bullpen goes wrong in the next four months, is there any chance the Yankees actively shop Betances or Miller? Seems like they could get a nice haul back from a playoff team and still have a pretty deep (though not as dominant) BP for the future. Was the Giles trade a benchmark?
Might as well lump these two together. I do think the Yankees would consider moving Dellin Betances in a trade as long as they are getting a big return. In fact, Joel Sherman reported a few days ago the Yankees listened to offers for both Betances and Chapman over the winter. That’s in addition to Andrew Miller, who was on the block all offseason.
As good as he is, there are valid reasons to trade Betances. He’s about to get expensive through arbitration, he has a history of arm injuries and a history of control problems, and relievers in general are just so damn volatile. Go back to 2013 and guys like Greg Holland, Joe Nathan, Jesse Crain, Danny Farquhar, and Neal Cotts were among the top 15 relievers in WAR. It can go quick and without warning.
The Ken Giles trade does establish a benchmark, though there are some key differences. Most notably, the Phillies traded five years of Giles. The Yankees would only be trading three years of Betances this offseason. Betances is better than Giles, but those two extra years of control are huge. A cheap young starter the Yankees could plug right into their rotation plus prospects seems like an appropriate return for Dellin.
I’m not sure the Yankees should actively shop Betances (or Miller) after the season, but they should absolutely be willing to listen to offers. And there’s no reason to think they won’t. Dellin’s soon to be escalating salary should not be a driving factor. He’s still going to very underpaid relative to his performance, and besides, the Yankees have money. Any trade should be about the talent coming back to the Yankees.
IJ asks: Saw in today’s weekly notes that Dellin Betances turned down a modest raise and the Yankees renewed his contract at league minimum, why would Dellin turn down a modest raise? Does that effect arbitration hearings or something else in the long term that it would make sense to do that? Couldn’t the Yankees have just said, “Hell with it give him the bump whether he wants it or not?”
Betances turned it down on principle, basically. He rejected the team’s offered raise because he felt it was too small, and he did not want to accept a low offer and set a precedent. I know, it sounds silly, but that’s what happened. I guess Dellin and his agent wanted to send a message. Declining the raise won’t have a huge impact on his salary next year as a first time arbitration player, and it might not have any impact whatsoever. I’m certain he and his agent considered that. Betances figures to smash arbitration records for a non-closer reliever. A few extra grand this year won’t change that.
Jeff asks: Why is A-Rod listed negatively defensively on Fangraphs when he hasn’t played in the field at all so far this year?
FanGraphs has Alex Rodriguez at -1.3 runs defensively on the season so far, and that’s the positional adjustment for DH. Positional adjustments are explained here. Long story short, some positions are more valuable than others, so players who play important positions (shortstop, etc.) get a boost while players at less important positions (left field, etc.) get docked. The positional adjustment for DH is -17.5 runs per 1,458 innings (162 nine-inning games), indicating a DH is -17.5 runs less valuable than an average defender. Those -1.3 runs charged to A-Rod are the pro-rated positional adjustment.
Jackson asks: There was some prospect buzz over the winter about guys who haven’t played any games yet, college guys like Will Carter and Brandon Wagner. In addition, it seems Katoh and Jose Mesa, Jr., who already have 2 plus years under their belt in the system have gone MIA. Any reason why the Yankees can’t give them more development/playing time? They’re not injured, correct?
Carter started the season with Low-A Charleston, made one start, then was placed on the DL for an unknown reason. Wagner, Mesa, and Gosuke Katoh are presumably in Extended Spring Training right now, ditto others like Drew Finley, Jeff Degano, and Kolton Mahoney. Mesa is the only one that really surprises me because he’s a reliever, he’s 22, he dominated last year (2.23 ERA and 2.28 FIP), and he finished the season in Charleston. He might be hurt. Otherwise I have to think he would be in High-A Tampa.
Wagner and especially Katoh seem like victims of the numbers crunch. The Yankees have a lot of infield prospects at the lower levels, so much so that guys like Thairo Estrada, Hoy Jun Park, Kyle Holder, and Abi Avelino are bouncing around the infield. Jorge Mateo and Miguel Andujar are playing short and third, their respective natural positions, full-time because they’re among the team’s best prospects. Everyone else is bouncing around. There’s no room for Wagner or Katoh anywhere. Finley and Degano are presumably fine-tuning in ExST and not hurt. And even if they were hurt, good luck getting that information.
Geoffrey asks: In the DotF this morning, you mentioned that Ronald Herrera is 20 and on the RailRiders, which seems rather notable. I don’t remember reading much about him besides getting him for Jose Pirela, what’s his story? Is he a potential big league call up?
The call-up to Triple-A was only temporary. Herrera made a spot start there because Tyler Olson and Luis Cessa were getting moved around at the MLB level. Still though, Herrera is only 20 and he’s in Double-A, and that’s impressive. He’s almost four years younger than the average Double-A Eastern League player. Here is Baseball America’s scouting report on Herrera from their free trade write-up:
Herrera’s not particularly physical, standing only 5-foot-10, and does not have much projection left, but he’s very athletic with an easy-to-repeat delivery. With the fastball, he shows above-average command to both sides of the plate and touched 94 mph while sitting 90-93. Herrera also throws a cutter and a big, soft curveball. But the change this season came when Herrera began to trust the fastball more, setting up the cutter and curve, instead of trying to trick hitters, as one evaluator said.
The Padres got Herrera from the Athletics in the Kyle Blanks trade two years ago, then San Diego sent him to the Yankees in the Pirela trade over the winter. He’s always limited walks (career 5.7 BB%) and his strikeout rate did jump from 14.5% in 2014 to 16.8% in 2015, so that’s interesting. Herrera’s not a top prospect by any means, but he has a chance to be a useful big league arm for sure. Next year seems more realistic than this year.
Mark asks: Curious to see your prediction for what the opening day starting staff will be next year as well as in 2018. With Kaprelian on the fast track along with CC’s vesting, Tanaka’s opt out and both Pineda’s and Eovaldi’s arbitration all coming up, do you think we’ll see as many as 4 new names in the rotation by 2018?
I would not be surprised if the Yankees looked to trade Michael Pineda and/or Nathan Eovaldi this coming offseason. They’re both due to become free agents following next year and the qualifying offer is no guarantee — will the qualifying offer even exist then? — so they could move both rather than lose them for nothing. Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino aren’t going anywhere, but CC Sabathia could pitch his way into the bullpen, I suppose. How does this sound:
|2017 Opening Day Rotation||2018 Opening Day Rotation|
|SP2||Severino||Trade Pickup No. 1|
|SP3||Pineda or Eovaldi||Trade Pickup No. 2|
|SP4||Trade Pickup No. 1||James Kaprielian|
|SP5||Sabathia||Mitchell or Cessa|
|SP6||Mitchell or Cessa||Mitchell or Cessa|
I’m going to guess — and this is nothing more than a guess — either Pineda or Eovaldi is traded after this season. Not necessarily for another starter — Trade Pickup No. 1 could come from a completely separate deal — but traded. Tanaka is going to opt-out of his contract following 2017 as long as he’s healthy, and both Sabathia and Pineda/Eovaldi will become free agents as well. Trade Pickup No. 2 comes in a separate trade, maybe something involving Didi Gregorius with Mateo taking over at short.
Point is, I don’t see the Yankees spending on a free agent starter following this season or next season. Stephen Strasburg is by far the best pitcher scheduled to hit free agency those two winters, and the Yankees are unlikely to hand out a $200M+ pitching contract at this point. They’re waiting for the big contracts to expire. They’re not looking to add any. Perhaps that changes with the 2018-19 epiphany free agent class.
Rob asks: During one of the games this last week one of the YES broadcasters (O’Neil I think) said young players may struggle with the shift when they first come up because they don’t shift, or at least don’t shift very much, in the minors. Is that true?
I don’t know about other teams, but the Yankees absolutely shift in the minors. From what I understand they use increasingly more shifts as you get closer to MLB, so they don’t shift much in Low-A but do shift a lot in Triple-A. That makes sense, right? You have to give players a chance to learn their position gradually. They had Mateo working out at second base in Instructional League last fall to help him get used to the right side of the infield in preparation for the shift, for example.
Teams are not aligning their defense the “old fashioned way” in the minors and then telling their young players to go out and execute the shift at the MLB level with no training. That’s silly. Young players struggle with the shift when they first come up for the same reason they struggle with anything: baseball is hard. The game is faster at the big league level and they’re playing against the very best players in the world. I can’t imagine there’s a team out there not using the shift to some degree in the minors. If such a team exists, they’re behind the times.
Brian asks: I feel like the Yankees starters are throwing a lot of pitches per plate appearance and it’s one of the reasons they aren’t lasting more than 5 innings (Tanaka aside). Where do they rank in terms of the rest of the league in this?
Believe it or not, the Yankees’ rotation is averaging 3.86 pitches per plate appearances so far this year, tied for 11th lowest among the 15 AL teams with the Astros and Indians. That surprised me. The league average is 3.97 pitches per plate appearance and only the Twins (3.81) and Blue Jays (3.74) are lower than the Yankees. Here are the individual starter averages:
Adam Wainwright is baseball’s most efficient pitcher (3.29) so far and Derek Holland is the least efficient pitcher (4.45). The Yankees have had some very long innings and high pitch counts because they’ve allowed a lot of base-runners. The rotation’s 1.36 WHIP is sixth highest among the AL teams. The individual at-bats are not necessarily long, but they face more batters per inning.
Steven asks: Both John Ryan Murphy and Aaron Hicks are off to very cold starts in their new uniforms. How much do you think the change of scenery affects both of them? And in Hicks case, how much of his struggles are due to his lack of starts thus far? I thought he’d be taking more starts from Beltran, but Carlos has been too hot to sit very often.
I think both guys are struggling because of a lack of playing time so far. Hicks has 23 plate appearances in 14 games and Murphy has 27 in 16 games. I can understand being buried behind Brian McCann on the Yankees, but being buried behind Kurt Suzuki on the 5-11 Twins? Rough. Poor JRM. I’m not sure the change of scenery itself has hurt either guy much. Hicks changed roles, going from everyday center fielder to fourth outfielder, which could be having an impact. Murphy is in the same role as last year. I think it’s just one of those things, to be honest. The noise of a small sample. Boring answer, but we’re talking about 20-something at-bats spread across two and a half weeks of games.
Paul asks: How crazy of an idea is it for Gardner to switch LF and RF with Beltran so that Gardner is in whichever field the batter is more likely to hit to?
Brett Gardner has played one game in right field in his career and I remember it. It was at Fenway Park two years ago and he looked completely lost out there. I remember he misread two or three balls because they sliced away from him more than he expected. This could work with someone like Hicks, who is used to both corner spots, but not Gardner given his inexperience in right.
Andy asks: What do you make of the Yankee’s rotation ranking 4th in the MLB in SIERA (3.40)? Do you expect the results to catch up with the underlying skills soon?
The rotation has a 5.01 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 3.38 xFIP, and a 3.30 SIERA at the moment. Last year the starting staff had a 4.25 ERA, 4.04 FIP, 3.75 xFIP, and a 3.85 SIERA. The Yankees are big believers in DIPS Theory, they’ve made it clear with the players they’ve acquired, and that’s all well and good. Lots of strikeouts, lots of grounders, few walks, and few homers is a wonderful recipe for success.
I think the Yankees have a rotation that will generally post lower FIP/xFIP/SIERAs than ERA for a few reasons. One is Yankee Stadium, which is very homer happy, and I don’t think the ERA estimators account for that properly. Two is the fact guys like Eovaldi and Pineda are hittable. That might be true with Severino as well. SIERA does account for balls in play (FIP and xFIP donot), but it’s not perfect. Come the end of the season, I think all four stats will be much closer to 4.00. The 5.01 ERA is too high and the 3.30 SIERA is too low because weird stuff happens in the first 14 games.
John asks: I realize that it’s early yet and that we’re all hoping that A-Rod turns things around. But if we get to June 30th or so and he still has a .163/.250/.302 split through 250 or so plate appearances, do you think the team will finally cut ties? I know the Yankees have been reluctant to release players with time left on their contracts, but several other teams have done so recently (Swisher’s an example). The Yankees gave Soriano until July 4th two years ago, and his stats were better than Alex’s so far this year.
They Yankees were only paying Alfonso Soriano $5M in 2014 and that was the final year of his contract. Cutting him loose didn’t hurt the wallet too much. Cutting A-Rod at midseason would mean eating $30M and no one wants to do that. The Braves ate $10M in one season to release Swisher (the Indians were paying the rest of his salary), which is very different than $30M across two years. I would be surprised if A-Rod is struggling that badly comes June. I would be even more surprised if the Yankees released him at that point. I think they would seriously consider releasing him in the offseason if he does go the entire season looking down. Like done done.
It hurts to get swept. It hurts even more when it happens at your home. The Yankees have lost seven out of their last nine and are 5-9 for season. On the bright side, Luis Severino pitched a pretty nice game and the offense delivered three hits in RISP situations (3-for-11, which certainly is better than 2-for-49). But in the end, on the night that Prince passed away, the Yankees partied like it’s the early-90’s: getting swept by the Oakland Athletics.
Back and Forth
The Yankees had a dance with RISP situations in the second. Rich Hill walked Mark Teixeira and A-Rod to begin the frame. Chase Headley followed it up by hitting into your usual 1-4-3 fielder’s choice out to put the runners second and third. Aaron Hicks snapped his 0-for-17 skid and poured some relief in the Yankee RISP drought with a bloop single to drive Tex in for a 1-0 lead. Well, Yankees had two more chances with RISP that inning and they failed to bring another one in (Austin Romine and Ronald Torreyes both K’d). Busts!
Severino got into a bit of a trouble in the fourth. He allowed a back foot slider double to Josh Reddick to start the inning. Jed Lowrie hit a low changeup into right for an RBI single, tying the game at one apiece. Stephen Vogt added more pressure with another single but Severino cleaned it up with a Chris Coghlan fly out and striking out both Khris Davis and Coco Crisp. Not too much harm done.
In the bottom of fourth with one out, A-Rod walked. As he attempted to steal second, Hill tried to pick him off at first but he badly overthrew the 1B Mark Canha, advancing A-Rod to third. The Yankees got another run in with Romine’s two-out swinging bunt single that was just placed niftily. Another RISP hit! 2-1. Unfortunately, that would be the last lead that New York had for the rest of the game.
The A’s tied it right back in the top of fifth. With two outs, and on a 2-2 count, Severino hung a slider up the zone that Canha reached and sent it to the right field seats for a home run. 2-2.
Severino, who had a 5.91 ERA coming into tonight, had an outing much more like himself. He pitched six innings of two-run ball while striking out four. He now has a 4.86 ERA with 3.47 FIP. I expect that ERA to keep climbing down in next few outings. Like Nathan Eovaldi last night, I feel like he pitched himself to an outing deserving of a win. However, baseball is harder than that – it certainly isn’t easy when you have the Yankee offense hitting like how they have for past week or so.
The Downward Spiral
Chasen Shreve, who had been great in the young season, came in the seventh to relieve Severino. In the first two pitches, he gave up two solo homers. Khris Davis and Coco Crisp both jumped on first pitches to give Oakland a 4-2 lead. Not ideal. It also seemed quite hard to ask Yankee offense to score two.
In the next frame though, Brett Gardner led off with a walk. Brian McCann followed it up with a strikeout and Didi Gregorius flied out to make it two quick outs. Jacob Ellsbury singled to give a breathe of hope to rally and Starlin Castro followed up with an RBI single to bring it within one, 4-3. Hope!
The A’s weren’t done though. In the top of eighth, with Johnny Barbato on the mound, Chris Coghlan hit a two out, two-run homer to make it a three-run lead, 6-3 A’s. Oakland added another run in the top ninth off Kirby Yates with a Canha sac fly, 7-3. If the game wasn’t out of reach already, well, they had done it there.
Ellsbury has not had the best defensive display this season but he saved a run in the first inning. With speedy Billy Burns on the first, Canha hit a liner that appeared to be a gap double. Ellsbury ran a good route and dove all-out to make a highlight reel catch. He also had a good night at the plate; going 3-for-5, raising his average to .255.
Hicks showed off his cannon arm again. In the top of sixth, Jed Lowrie hit a single to left and tried to stretch it to double. Hicks threw another laser to second that got Lowrie out pretty, pretty easily. It was really not close at all.
The Yankees had three relievers in the game and each of them allowed at least a run – Shreve and Barbato each allowed two and Yates, one. Sure, they are no Dellin Betances or Andrew Miller but… just not the team’s night at all. But hey, at least they didn’t face the same fate as the Cincinnati Reds.
Box Score, WPA, Highlights and Standings
The Yankees welcome Tampa Bay Rays for a three-game series for this weekend. The big man CC Sabathia is going to look to turn it around for the Yankees while the Rays will send out Matt Moore.
Triple-A Scranton (6-5 loss to Buffalo)
- CF Ben Gamel & RF Aaron Judge: both 1-5 — Gamel struck out
- C Gary Sanchez: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB — second homer of the year
- DH Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K
- 1B Chris Parmelee: 1-2, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 BB, 1 K
- RHP Luis Cessa: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 5/3 GB/FB — 37 of 57 pitches were strikes (65%) … first start here after one tune-up relief appearance
- LHP Tyler Webb: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 28 of 45 pitches were strikes (62%)
- LHP James Pazos: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — half of his 22 pitches were strikes
The Yankees stink right now. They’ve lost six of their last seven games, and they’ve scored two runs or fewer in all six losses. The Yankees are 5-1 when they score three or more runs this season and 0-7 when they’re held to two or less. That third run has been pretty big so far. Too bad it has been so hard to come by of late.
Those six losses in the last seven games are in the books. Nothing the Yankees can do about them now. Today is another opportunity to bust out of the slump, get some runs on the board, and start a winning streak. There are 149 games to be played. The season is still mighty young. Here is the A’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- 2B Starlin Castro
- RF Carlos Beltran
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- DH Alex Rodriguez
- 3B Chase Headley
- LF Aaron Hicks
- C Austin Romine
- SS Ronald Torreyes
RHP Luis Severino
The Yankees have stunk during this homestand but the weather has not. Another great day in New York today. A tad cool, but there are only a few clouds in the sky. Pretty great. Today’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.
YES Update: FOX regional sports affiliates, including YES, can now be streamed on Sling TV. It’s $20 a month — there’s a free seven-day trial — so it’s not free, but it’s not too pricey either. You will be able to stream Yankees games on YES, even if you’re in-market and a currently dealing with the Comcast nonsense. Here’s the Sling TV link. I’m going to post this reminder one last time tomorrow, so if you know someone who may be interested, don’t forget to tell them.
Nolan Jones | SS
Jones attends Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, which is about halfway between Trenton and Philadelphia, so he’s kinda sorta local to the Yankees. He is 10-for-14 (.714) with a double, a triple, two home runs, and ten walks through six games this spring. Jones impressed with his ability to handle advanced prep arms from warm weather states in showcase events last summer. He’s slated to attend Virginia in the fall.
At 6-foot-4 and 185 lbs., most expect Jones to outgrow shortstop and move to either second or third base down the line. His bat will play anywhere, however. The left-handed hitter has a drool worthy offensive skill set. Jones has very strong hands and good raw power, yet his swing is simple and controlled, allowing him to barrel up the ball consistently. He knows the strike zone and looks very much like a player with the potential to hit for a high average with power and on-base ability down the line. The kid can even run a little. Defensively, Jones has a strong arm — he’s been clocked at 88-91 mph off the mound — and good hands, so third base won’t be an issue if that’s where he ends up.
In their latest rankings, Keith Law (subs. req’) and Baseball America ranked Jones as the 14th and 16th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. MLB.com had him further down at No. 29. The Yankees hold the 18th overall pick. I’m just an idiot with a blog, so take the following with a grain of salt: Jones strikes me as an underrated draft prospect who would be getting much more attention if he were playing year round in California or Texas. I get that he hasn’t faced great competition as a high schooler, but he did rake against the best of the best in showcases last year, and the tools are very impressive. Virginia commitments can be tough to break, and if Jones winds up going to college, he has a chance to come out as potential No. 1 pick in three years.