The following is the second in a weekly series of posts where I take a look at a prospect in the Brewers’ minor league system.
- Is a relief pitcher
- Is 6’6″, 190 pounds
- Pitches right-handed, would stand in batter’s box as a righty
- Was born 3/3/87 in Cullman, AL
- Was drafted in the 27th round of the 2010 draft out of Jacksonville State
- Minor league career: 11.3 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 3.42 ERA in 50 IP
- True fact: is not a libertarian radio host that is involved in a war for your mind
Last Monday we took a look at Logan Schafer – one of the Brewers’ top prospects, and a player on the cusp of making it to Milwaukee. Let’s go the opposite way with our Monday’s Prospect this week and talk about a 24 year old rookie ball relief pitcher named Alex Jones.
The first time you see Jones pitch, you’re bound to see visions of Tim Dillard. Like Dillard, Jones is a tall, lanky right-hander that uses a sidearm pitching motion. Also like Dillard, Jones is a bullpen-only prospect due to that delivery.
There are a few important differences between the two pitchers. First, Jones is two inches taller than Dillard. Jones also throws from a slightly lower (closer to the ground) arm slot. Like most very tall pitchers, Jones has had trouble maintaining his mechanics and his release point, leading to bouts of wildness. He’s shown some refinement in his delivery this year. Up to his last appearance, Jones had not walked a batter this year with Helena.
Another important difference between the two sidearm pitchers is stuff. Before Tommy John surgery in 2009, Jones sat in the low 90′s with his fastball, touching 94. While he has yet to get all the way back there, Jones still has a tick or two more on his fastball than Dillard.
Where Jones has the real edge over Dillard is with his breaking ball. Jones has a wipeout slider that rivals Robert Hinton’s as the best in the system. The slider is a plus-plus pitch that can almost completely negate right-handed batters when Jones is throwing it well.
A final advantage that Jones has over most sidearm pitchers is that he’s been doing it a long time. Most pitchers that throw sidearm throw that way as a last ditch effort to remain viable as a pitcher after their previous arm slot did not bring them success. Jones has pitched sidearm since high school, and it has become his natural (i.e., not “learned”) arm slot.
As with almost all sidearm pitchers, Jones’ effectiveness against left-handed bats is extremely limited. Lefties see the ball very well out of the right-handed sidearm delivery and the ball naturally tails into their wheelhouse. To have any shot against a lefty batter, Jones must keep the ball down and work the corners.
Jones is too old to be playing in Helena, and needs to advance quickly to be a legit Major League prospect for the Brewers. The improvements he’s made with control are a great sign, though it’ll be tough for him to keep his delivery consistent. His fastball is good enough for the big league bullpen, though a return to his pre-surgery velocity would be welcome. His slider could be a dominant MLB pitch against right-handed batters. Health remains a background concern with his surgical history and consistent strain of throwing the slider.
It will be interesting to see what the Brewers do with Jones next year. He’ll be 25 in March and needs to be assigned aggressively out of minor league camp in spring. I doubt that they’ll start him in AA, but he needs to get there quickly if they don’t. He can be a contributor out of the bullpen in the next few years if the Brewers play their cards right.