By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
John Cohen sees Major League stuff when Devin Jones pitches. The path to fulfilling that expectation begins now.
Jones will forego his final year of eligibility at Mississippi State and sign with the Baltimore Orioles, who drafted the right-handed pitcher in the ninth round of the Major League Draft earlier this month. His career numbers are hardly stellar – 4-13 record, 6.37 ERA – but Jones has the kind of makeup scouts like.
Cohen, who just completed his third season as MSU coach, said it’s a matter of Jones bulking up his 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame and finding more consistent command of his pitches, especially his “plus slider,” as Cohen called it.
“He’s got arm speed, and he’s got an unbelievable slider, and he’s worked hard on his changeup,” Cohen said. “You get that young man to 24, 25 (years old), if he keeps developing, I just think he’s going to be a great prospect.”
Jones, who starred at Eupora High School, was 2-5 with a 4.37 ERA this past season. He began SEC play as a weekend starter but was moved to the bullpen after four starts, in which he allowed 16 earned runs in 141/3 innings.
He did finish the season strong, however. In his final four outings, Jones allowed two earned runs in 102/3 innings, including three shutout innings against Florida in Game 3 of the Gainesville Super Regional.
Jones said leaving MSU a year early was a tough decision, but the Orioles made it a little easier with a $97,500 signing bonus and an offer to pay for his final three semesters of school.
“They offered that, and pretty much I feel like it was time to go,” he said, “just kind of start out, try to make something out of being a professional baseball player, work hard toward that goal, really kind of be out on my own for a little while.”
Jones will report to a 10-day mini-camp in Sarasota, Fla., before starting his pro career with the Class A short-season team in Aberdeen, Md.
Cohen said it was a “win-win” situation for Jones whether he stayed or went pro. The question now is if Jones can be patient enough to allow his body and talent to develop in the minors.
“I’ve just got to keep throwing, keep pitching as much as possible to get there,” Jones said. “That’s the only way you’re really going to learn yourself or learn anything, is through doing it.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571