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St. Louis Cardinals Top Prospects: #19

Every other day over the next two months, John Nagel and Kyle Reis will announce a new prospect on The Redbird Daily’s Top 30 St. Louis Cardinals Prospect List. For each prospect, John and Kyle will reveal where that prospect landed on their personal lists and also few thoughts on the prospect. We hope you enjoy!

Prospect #19 Connor Jones – 2nd Round, 2016

2016 Stats: GCL/State College – 0-0, 3.68 ERA, 14.2 IP, 11 K, 3 BB

Kyle Reis (Ranked #25 on Personal List)

Poor Connor Jones. Unlike many other evaluators, I have the highly touted 2nd round pick at the back of my personal list. I’ve watched more video and read more scouting reports about this 22 year old from the University of Virginia than any of the lesser-tenured prospects on the list. I’ve been over-exposed. I’ve found and fixated on his weaknesses. He’s a victim of my neurosis. I’m damaged, and he’s the poor S.O.B that I’m taking it out on!

But Jones needs to take some of the blame. It seems to me that Jones is one of those players that just doesn’t make any sense. There aren’t any stats, advanced or otherwise, that can tell you exactly what kind of player this enigma is.

Physically, he fits the mold at 6’3 200+ pounds. He has a very good fastball with great sink and an above average slider. I’ve even seen a scout compare his fastball sink to Masahiro Tanaka‘s. His changeup seems to be about average and his curve is average/below, both of which aren’t that big of a deal, as many kids drafted that highly at his age will successfully develop one or the other.

So, why am I being dismissive of this type of prospect?

Let me start by saying that I’m buying in to the Pitching Curse of The University of Virginia. I’ll let Keith Law explain it to you a little bit more in depth here. There is a legitimate concern that, among other things, some of the practices taught by UVA’s pitching coach Karl Kuhn might halt a players development. It might be a terrible generalization,  but in Jones specific case I believe that the numbers prove the claim.

His draft stock took a hit during his junior year as his velocity dropped a little, his hits per 9 increased a little, and his strike out rate nose-dived. He struck out 72 over 103.2 IP at Virginia in 2016. That’s a K/9 rate of a 6.25, which isn’t good enough for a starter. His walks were down, but the hits against were up, thus balancing out the gains he made while commanding his repertoire.

The one thing that Jones does excel at is inducing ground balls. I tried to do the math by myself so I apologize if it’s a little sloppy, but 35 of the 60 batters he faced after being drafted hit the ball on the ground. I believe that will translate as he moves through the system.

Jones is an intelligent pitcher and he knows how to pitch and that will aid his ascent. So, perhaps lazily, I see Jones developing into and peaking-near the Matt Bowman/Seth Maness type role with a max out of Mitchell Boggs. He’s a major leaguer, but not what you’d necessarily hope for out of a 2nd round pick.

Hopefully Jones gives me a chance to call myself out for being wrong. He won’t turn 23 until October. There is still plenty of time for that.

 

John Nagel (Ranked #16 on personal list)

If Kyle thinks like he may have ranked him too low, I could go the other way and think I may have ranked him too high. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love what he can bring to the table. Generally, I am much higher on Jones than others (including Kyle) and I will attempt to explain why.

First, let me state that the Virginia pitching “curse” that Kyle mentions does freak me out a little regarding Connor Jones, but I think the sample size is too small to call it a real thing. Over the past few years, Virginia has produced Sean Doolittle, Jeremy Jeffries, and Daniel Hudson. Nothing great, but solid major leaguers.

What I love most about Connor Jones is that sinking fastball that Kyle talks about above. He can throw it in the low to mid 90’s. If you combine that with sink, it’s really tough to hit. Hitters will be wearing out the dirt right in front of home plate.

Another thing to like about Jones is his pitch repertoire. I’ve read reports that his slider is a plus and I have read things that say it’s average. That said, he also can feature a two seam fastball, curve ball, and has tinkered with a splitter over a change-up. If he can get to four solid pitches, he will shoot through the system.

Jones’ ceiling isn’t that high, but he is an incredibly safe pick. There is very little risk involved as he was one of the most polished pitchers coming out of the 2016 Draft. Right now, I would pencil him in as a future #3 starter, especially if he can nail down his secondary offerings.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Jones starts the season with Double-A Springfield and could be in the Memphis rotation mix by late season.

How we rank prospects: Click Here
Best of The Rest: Click Here
#30 Prospect: Daniel Poncedeleon
#29 Prospect: Jonathan Machado
#28 Prospect: Jeremy Martinez
#27 Prospect: John Gant
#26 Prospect: Alvaro Seijas
#25 Prospect: Nick Plummer
#24 Prospect: Jordan Hicks
#23 Prospect: Zac Gallen
#22 Prospect: Bryce Denton
#21 Prospect: Johan Oviedo
#20 Propsect: Randy Arozarena
#19 Prospect: Connor Jones
#18 Prospect: 2/27
#17 Prospect: 3/1
#16 Prospect: 3/3
#15 Prospect: 3/5
#14 Prospect: 3/7
#13 Prospect: 3/9
#12 Prospect: 3/11
#11 Prospect: 3/13
#10 Prospect: 3/15
#9 Prospect: 3/17
#8 Prospect: 3/19
#7 Prospect: 3/21
#6 Prospect: 3/23
#5 Prospect: 3/25
#4 Prospect: 3/27
#3 Prospect: 3/29
#2 Prospect: 3/31
#1 Prospect: 4/2

Kyle Reis
Kyle is a South City St Louis born and raised. He is 30 years old and grew up at old Busch Stadium. His favorite Cardinals player of all time is Ray Lankford. Kyle is an overly simple person who loves countable baseball statistics, following minor league baseball, and friendly discourse. He tends to not take people seriously that refer for the team that they root for as "we" instead of "them".
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