An undersized senior in college baseball is not traditionally a high priority prospect come MLB draft season, and P.J. Jones won’t be at the top of any draft boards, but don’t sleep on him. His numbers have actually dipped since his freshman year, and they don’t leap off the page here early in the 2015 season, but he has an attitude and love for the game that will make him a quality member of any organization that drafts him come June.
The 5’9” catcher takes advantage of his smaller size by utilizing his excellent athleticism and quickness behind the plate. He has quick feet to get from his crouch into a throwing stance, and regularly throws strikes when a player tries to steal a bag on him, but an arm that is average at best will always limit his ability to regularly throw runners out at the next level.
What he lacks in arm strength, he more than makes up for in baseball intelligence behind the plate. In college, where many catchers wear wrist bands with the game plan and signs for that day’s game, Jones crouches behind the dish with confidence and displays the preparation he puts into every game.
At the plate, Jones does not have a ton of power, probably projects as a future doubles hitter with single digit long balls, but he has a smooth swing and can hit line drives with consistency.
While his bat is probably the best on a Washington State team that lacks much proven offensive talent, Jones is not afraid to take a walk. In fact, he excels at it. His eye for the ball is elite, as he recognizes when a pitch will be out of the zone incredibly early and seems to already be halfway out the box by the time the ball reaches the plate. Even the Pac-12 umpires show respect for his knowledge of the zone, in a tournament where the umps would regularly tell a batter complaining about a strike call to get back in the box, they seemed to actually listen when Jones would express his rare displeasure with a call.
He may not have a projection of a future big leaguer, but he certainly will be drafted this year, and I would not put it past him to outplay his tool set and stick in pro ball for some time, and maybe earn a cup of coffee in time.
I had a chance to catch up with Jones after He came through with the go ahead, and eventual game winning, double seen in the video above. He talked the good start to the season for the Cougars, expectations for this season, and allowing himself to take in the big league complexes.
Shaun Kernahan: You beat Oklahoma earlier this week and now you knock off another Big 12 team in Kansas, what does that do for the confidence in the team here early in the season?
P.J. Jones: Well it’s good. We got a young team, lacking a little experience but we are playing good team baseball so it is nice to see our team clicking against some pretty good competition. If we can grind out wins like that this season it will be fun.
SK: You mention it is a young team, you are a senior catcher, does the team look to you to take a leadership role?
PJ: I kinda put the role on myself, me and a couple of the other older guys. We are just trying to be leaders and lead the guys in the right direction and hopefully it is paying off. The younger guys are growing up faster than we expected, so it’s good to see.
SK: A lot of outlets are saying Washington State will be at the bottom of the Pac 12, after a good showing out here, what is a realistic goal for Washington State to finish the season?
PJ: Sky is the limit. Play clean baseball, pitch really well, get timely hits and just find a way to win ballgames, you never now. Especially in the Pac 12, it is so unpredictable.
SK: This tournament, you get to play some games in big league Spring Trainings fields, do you allow yourself to look forward to a year from now when you get to be on these fields as a pro ballplayer?
PJ: Most definitely! It has been fun going just around the complexes and seeing these nice stadiums we have been playing at our last couple games. It’s been our goal since we were kids to make it to the next level and it’s awesome to get a little taste of it.