Angels draft 'whole package' in outfielder Jones
ANAHEIM -- Major League Baseball has had a difficult time luring African-American players away from basketball or football over the last few decades. But Jahmai Jones, the high school outfielder the Angels drafted in the second round of the 2015 Draft on Monday, personified an encouraging sign.
Jones' family lives and breathes football. His late father, Andre Jones, was a linebacker on the national championship-winning Notre Dame team in 1988. His older brother, T.J. Jones, is currently a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions.
But after two years as a slot receiver at Wesleyan High School in Norcross, Ga., the younger Jones decided he would steer his speed and athleticism stricly toward baseball.
"It was a very tough decision because my bloodlines scream football," Jones said on a conference call Monday night. "It was almost abnormal not to play football in our family. You'd wake up on Saturday mornings and go play football in the backyard, not baseball. But it came down to a decision where I just wanted to do what I love. Football was a hobby and kind of a leisure activity that I played just to stay in shape for baseball. Baseball came around, and I knew that was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life."
The Angels drafted Jones 70th overall, after earlier selecting Fresno State catcher Taylor Ward with the 26th pick, to cap Day 1. The Draft continues with Rounds 3-10 on Tuesday, with the MLB.com preview show starting at 9:30 a.m. PT and exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 10 a.m.
Jones, 17, was a middle infielder in his freshman and sophomore years, but was told his speed would play better in the outfield the summer before his junior season and moved primarily to center field for his final two years of high school.
Jones is listed at 5-foot-11, 210 pounds, and MLB.com's Draft experts say he has quick hands, a smooth swing and a line-drive approach that help generate a lot of contact.
Asked what he liked about Jones, Angels scouting director Ric Wilson said: "His athleticism, the power, the strength -- just the whole package."
"For as young as he is, he's pretty advanced," Wilson added. "Don't get me wrong; there's some work to be done. But he's got bat speed, he's got strength, he's got instincts in the outfield, he can throw the ball. It's just what we were looking for. We truly needed some athleticism and some upside."
Jones was committed to the University of North Carolina, but it doesn't look like he'll be going there.
"Don't get me wrong, the University of North Carolina is a great school and I was really excited to go to college, but at the end of the day, my heart's sold on baseball," said Jones, a Perfect Game First-Team All-American this season. "I'm just really excited to be on a team, and hopefully in a couple weeks I'm out there in California playing."