Two seasons ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates introduced one of their top pitching prospects, Roansy Contreras, to the big leagues late in the season.
After a strong year in the minor leagues, Contreras made his major league debut at the tail-end of the season with the Pirates against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park. In that game, the right-hander worked three scoreless innings.
It was a reward for a strong minor league season and it gave the then-21-year-old a bit of a head start on life as an MLB player.
The following season, Contreras was a prominent member of the Pirates’ pitching staff. He made 21 appearances (18 starts) and was 5-5 with a 3.72 ERA in 2022.
And sure, Contreras has struggled mightily this season, but that’s a separate conversation and doesn’t apply to the point I’m making here.
Fast forward to this season, and the Pirates have the chance to do something similar with one of their top pitching prospects — and they should.
Jared Jones was drafted by Pittsburgh in the second round of the 2020 draft as a high schooler and has flown through the Pirates’ minor league system.
Jones current ranks as the No. 3 Pirates’ prospect and the 69th-best prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline.
With no minor league season the year he was drafted, Jones began his professional career in 2021 and has risen all the way to Triple-A Indianapolis this season.
Combined this year between Indianapolis and Double-A Altoona, Jones has gone 5-8 with a 3.85 ERA and has struck out 140 batters in 121.2 innings pitched.
His last outing was one of his best. Against Omaha on Friday, the 23-year-old surrendered only one hit, walked one and struck out eight in 6.0 scoreless outings. In his last two starts, he hasn’t given up a run in a combined 13.0 innings pitched.
Like Contreras two years ago, Jones figures to be a member of the Pirates’ starting rotation in short order, and he’s on track to receive an extended look in the big leagues next season.
Jones is one of a few young pitching prospects the Pirates are relying on to become MLB contributors sooner rather than later alongside Paul Skenes and Anthony Solometo.
With Skenes on the development list for the rest of the season and Solometo currently on it with him, Jones is the closest to getting to the big leagues and that chance should come this season.
Looking at the current state of the Pirates’ rotation makes all the more sense for Jared Jones to make his major league debut this season.
The Pirates only have two regulars in their rotation in Mitch Keller and Johan Oviedo. Both players have already far-exceeded their career-highs in innings.
Pittsburgh’s rebuilding efforts with a look toward the future are starting to become the present. A handful of the organization’s impact prospects are already in the big leagues, though most of them are position players.
If the Pirates want to contend as early as next year, the starting pitching will need a boost. So why not get a head start on next season and give Jones a shot in this year’s final stretch?