The LA Angels are changing baseball as we know it. They are pioneers in the shift towards two-way players, with six(!!) two-way players within their organizations. For this weeks draft preview, we look at one player who can continue this two-way revolution in Anaheim.
It all started with the LA Angels being the team chosen by Shohei Ohtani, but Billy Eppler didn’t let it end there. Jared Walsh, an outfielder who can also pitch in relief (or a relief pitcher who can also play the outfield?) has made waves this Spring Training.
Now, Angels fans, I introduce you to Spencer Jones. The 17-year old product of La Costa Canyon High School (a quick 1.5 hour drive from Angels Stadium) has put his name on the radar of scouts across the country, and is a consensus Top 20 player across most rankings.
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A natural southpaw as a hitter and as a pitcher, Jones would be a desirable player even if he was solely a pitcher or hitter. The fact that he does both, and at a high level, is what makes him a top prospect this year. There is already discussion as to whether or not he is better suited as a pitcher or hitter full-time in the future, but if he ends up with the Angels, odds are he winds up as both.
At 6’7” and 205 pounds, Jones still has a lot of frame to fill out with muscle. To think he’ll only get stronger, naturally improving his velocity and power at the plate, gives Jones as much potential as any player in this draft class. However, he is a developmental prospect, and likely won’t see the big leagues until 2022, if not later. However, while that might make some fans skeptical, Jones has shown he will be worth the wait.
A fairly inexperienced player, Jones already has two pitches that are arguably above-average. His fastball sits at around 93 MPH, and has (sometimes too much) life on it. His curveball looks dominant at times. However, similar to his fastball, has a hard time hitting the zone at times.
As a hitter his swing is still raw and unpolished, but there is tons of potential if he lands with the right coaches.
In the field, he has good speed for his size and while mostly slots in at first base, has shown he can handle the corner outfield positions as well. Obviously his arm is a strength out there.
So why would the Angels take a chance on such a raw player? That’s the obvious questions. Wouldn’t they rather take a more “sure thing” pitcher out of a college? One who can help them win sooner?
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Well, maybe. However, looking at the past few first round picks for Billy Eppler, they have all been players who have the tools to be All Stars, but haven’t put it together. Jo Adell had the best tools in the 2017 Draft, and he and the Halo coaches have done a fantastic job of developing their future star thus far. 2018 first round pick Jordyn Adams has also shown early results, and was another uber-athletic player who needs to fine tune his game.
Spencer Jones is a risky prospect. There’s no guarantee he pans out as a two-way player. However, Billy Eppler has proven that the prospects who need extra development are worth the risk at times. Adell and Adams are just two examples. The Angels need to be ready to pull the trigger on Spencer Jones should he fall into their lap, and watch him, Shohei Ohtani, and the five other two-way players redefine the MLB as we know it for years to come.