Look Into The Future With Jared Jones

Is it time to believe in the Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation?

Through the first month of the 2024 season, the starting pitcher that has arguably generated the most buzz has been Jared Jones of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Since being drafted out of high school in the 2nd round of the 2020 draft by Pittsburgh, Jones has done nothing but strike opposing hitters out throughout his time in the Minor Leagues, culminating in a 27.6% strikeout rate across 126.1 innings pitched in AA and AAA combined last season, placing Jones as the 62nd best prospect in all of Major League Baseball heading into the 2024 season according to FanGraphs.

Jones has continued this success early this season, posting a strikeout rate of 31.8% with a 3.18 ERA during the first 34.0 innings pitched of his Major League career, while currently leading all of Major League Baseball among qualified pitchers with a 28.0% K-BB. Featuring a pitching arsenal that is dominated by an elite four-seam/slider combination, Jared Jones has had an impressive start to his Major League career and appears to be a pitcher that the Pirates can count on being at the top of their starting rotation for the foreseeable future.


Four-Seam Fastball


The most dominant pitch in Jones’s pitch arsenal has been his four-seam fastball. Utilizing the offering 47.2% of the time, the pitch has been excellent at generating swing-and-miss throughout the early part of the season, and its performance in pitch modelling metrics indicates that the pitch should serve as a solid foundation for the rest of his pitch arsenal moving forward.

As shown by the graphic above, Jones’s four-seam fastball displays well above league average velocity and induced vertical break, which causes hitters to frequently swing under the pitch which consequently results in increased swing-and-miss. This combination of velocity and movement causes the pitch to grade out favorably with pitch modelling metrics, as the pitch grades out to be a 5.48 PLV and 144 Stuff+. According to Stuff+, Jones’s four-seamer grades as the best fastball in Major League Baseball among qualified pitchers.

In addition to the plus velocity and movement characteristics, Jones’s four-seam fastball also displays an impressive vertical approach angle (-4.1 VAA, 1.6 Adj. VAA). VAA is the angle at which a pitch approaches home plate vertically, meaning that the pitch has even more of a “rising” effect when located at the top of the strike zone. The combination of plus-induced vertical break and vertical approach angle allows for the four-seam fastball to be dominant when utilized at the top of the zone, which Jones has been able to achieve consistently against right-handed hitters, and makes the pitch one of the best fastballs in all of Major League Baseball when accounting for the 97.2 MPH average velocity of the pitch.

Jones did see a recent in-game velocity decline on his four-seamer, with the pitch being thrown at 93.3 mph toward the end of his most recent outing. This will be something to monitor moving forward, however, I don’t think this should drastically change the long-term outlook at the present moment unless this is a trend that continues across multiple outings. Overall, Jones’s four-seam fastball is an elite pitch with a 34.1% whiff rate as the plus velocity and movement characteristics of the pitch allow for the pitch to be dominant especially when located at the top of the zone.




Another equally as dominant pitch in Jones’s pitch arsenal has been his slider. Utilizing the offering 38.6% of the time, the slider has also been very effective at generating swing-and-miss during the start of the 2024 season, with the pitch currently producing a 44.1% Whiff Rate.

As shown by the table above, Jones’s slider possesses more of a gyro-like shape, allowing for the pitch to be thrown at a higher velocity and theoretically is easier to locate within the strike zone due to the less extreme movement profile. With an average velocity of 88.5 mph, pitch modeling metrics are also fans of the slider with the pitch grading out as a 5.44 PLV and 131 Stuff+.

Not only do the impressive velocity and movement characteristics contribute to the success of this offering, but Jones’s ability to locate the slider at the bottom of the zone plays a major role in the pitch’s ability to generate swing-and-miss. Consistently locating the pitch on the bottom-third, glove-side location of the strike zone allows for the pitch to tunnel well with the four-seamer, which allows for the pitch to generate swing-and-miss when breaking away from right-handed hitters and when fading in on left-handed hitters. Pitch modelling metrics agree that this pitch is well located, as FanGraphs’s Location+ model grades the pitch as a 105.

Command is not as sticky year-to-year as raw stuff and Jones will inevitably have a bad outing and hang a few sliders over the plate which might get hit for hard contact, however, his ability to command the slider so far this season has been impressive, and allows for the pitch to be almost unhittable when combined with the plus stuff the offering possesses. Jones’s slider has been one of the most effective secondary pitches in all of Major League Baseball early this season and is a lethal pairing with his four-seam fastball which should allow for Jones to have much success, especially against right-handed hitters.


Curveball + Changeup


Thrown much less frequently than his Four Seamer and Slider, Jones also possesses a curveball and changeup in his pitch arsenal. Both pitches are used more frequently against left-handed hitters with the curveball being utilized 10.1% of the time and the changeup being utilized 9.0% of the time against hitters of the opposite handedness. Both pitches are utilized 4.1% of the time against right-handed hitters.



While both pitches are utilized less frequently than the four-seamer and slider, the curveball and changeup still grade favorably by pitch modelling metrics, with the changeup grading out as a 5.23 PLV and 134 Stuff+, while the curveball grades out as a less impressive 4.87 PLV and 101 Stuff+. Utilizing a changeup does allow Jones to pitch more effectively against left-handed hitters, and the pitch could be more effective at generating swing-and-miss if he can locate the pitch low-and-away to left-handed hitters with consistency. The presence of the curveball in his arsenal allows for Jones to have another breaking ball that he can utilize to both right and left-handed hitters, especially for called strikes early in the count, and can also plant seeds of doubt in the minds of opposing hitters as they have to prepare to face another good secondary offering. The curveball and changeup are good compliments to Jones’s dominant four-seam and slider combination, with the changeup having the potential to perform even better against left-handed hitters should Jones improve his ability to command the offering.


Concluding Thoughts


With an elite four-seam/slider combination, Jared Jones has had an impressive start to his Major League career and appears to be a pitcher that the Pittsburgh Pirates can count on being at the top of their starting rotation for the foreseeable future.

It should be noted that Jones can be expected to experience some statistical regression in the near future, as his .247 BABIP should regress towards the mean and a 90.1% LOB indicates that he will likely allow more runs in the future. However a 21.9% HR/FB is quite high, even for a pitcher that relies on a Fastball up in the zone, which should result in fewer home runs allowed moving forward. I would expect these factors to largely cancel each other out, and I would conclude that Jones will see a slight regression as it pertains to run prevention.

Given his plus ability to generate swing-and-miss and locate his four-seamer and slider, the high K-BB% that he is able to produce should give him a high enough floor to continue his stretch of dominance even when he experiences some batted ball and left-on-base regression.

Overall, Jones’s impressive start to the season is backed up by an impressive pitch arsenal that provides him the foundation to be a key piece of the Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation for the foreseeable future. Combine Jones’s early season breakout with Paul Skenes’s impending promotion to the Majors and it appears that Pittsburgh might have one of the best 1-2 punches in all of Major League Baseball at the top of the starting rotation very soon.


Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire | Featured Image by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Adam Salorio

Adam Salorio is a Going Deep Writer at Pitcher List, and a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan. When he's not talking about or researching baseball, you can probably catch him at a Bruce Springsteen concert.

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