Weight: 190 lbs.
DOB: March 7, 1998
An immediate standout thanks to his speed, Jones has been on the scouting radar since his prep days. Just two years ago, Jones was a top 100 draft prospect coming out of the North Carolina high school ranks as a plus-plus runner who showed some infield ability and hit well in prep ball. However, Jones was already 19 years old coming out of high school, and elected to attend college near home at UNC Wilmington. Going to school allowed Jones not only to gain some seasoning, but also wipe away his age disadvantage, as MLB rules permit him to re-enter the draft as a sophomore because he will be over 21 years old on draft day.
An accomplished prep hitter, Jones handled the transition to D-I college ball fairly well, especially for a player still growing into his body. After being listed at 5’9” as a prep underclassman and 5’11” as a 2017 draft prospect, Jones was listed by UNCW at 6’2” and a wiry 175 pounds. Appearing in 60 games as a freshman, Jones hit .278/.412/.370 with 16 steals in 20 attempts, demonstrating two of his best traits on the diamond- an advanced, patient approach, and top shelf speed.
After showing an ability to handle the bat against serious competition, Jones entered the 2019 season with considerable hype, being touted as a top half of the first round or even top ten candidate by some outlets. Jones got off to a bit of a slow start in 2019 but took a step forward in all facets of his game on the whole, as he currently owns a .337/.482/.526 line through 53 contests and has continued to showcase his speed with seven triples while going 35 for 43 on stolen base attempts.
A dynamic athlete who should continue to add strength to his frame, Jones brings an array of tantalizing skills to the diamond. He is at least a 7 runner, which has been an asset for him both on the basepaths and in the field, has projectable pop, and, as a cherry on top, has the ability to switch hit. He has the athletic profile to play both shortstop and center field, and could profile at either spot long term, or even hold down a super utility role. Jones has also shown solid baserunning instincts and should be able to bring value to a club with speed and defense regardless of his long term offensive profile.
The only real blemish for Jones is a major one- his contact skills are suspect. The speedster struck out an alarming 77 times during his freshman year, and while he’s trimmed that number considerably this season with 38 as a sophomore, scouts have continued to express concern about his swing mechanics. While Jones does show great feel for the strike zone and good bat speed, he can get rather loose at times resulting in weak contact and swings and misses. The hit tool is the most important part of the package, and in Jones’ case it is also the weak link, but the adaptability he has shown as a collegiate should make teams hopeful that he can continue to make the necessary adjustments in pro ball.
With his dynamic running ability and knack for drawing walks, Jones doesn’t even need to be an average hitter to be a regular at shortstop or in center field. While the range of outcomes for Jones is wide, he doesn’t have a low floor in the traditional sense. he low end outcome is probably a late game replacement who can defend capably at multiple premium positions, help as a pinch runner and try to grind out counts at the plate. If he hits enough to maintain average OBPs, he has a good chance to be a regular, and if he hits enough to get to his considerable raw power, he could be a star. While his bat needs more work than most players likely to go in his range, his raw tools are near the top of the class and he has some present traits that readily translate to the pro game.
HIT- 45 | POWER - 50 | RUN - 70 | FIELD - 50 | ARM - 50
Projected Draft Round
While Jones looks likely to last late into the first round, it does not appear the odds are very high that he escapes it.
Will he sign?
Jones would line up in age with most seniors next season, and has first round stock right now. It’d be a massive upset if he doesn’t head to pro ball this summer.
Does he fit with Houston?
The Astros have been connected to Jones somewhat heavily, and have targeted players in the speed-and-on-base-skills mold in the past. He’s in the mix at 32.