Newest Ray a former 2-sport star, but not just 'an athlete'

Tampa Bay zeroes in on college arms with Day 3 picks

July 19th, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG -- It should come as no surprise, but the word you probably hear most when discussing Rays second-round Draft pick Brock Jones is “athlete.”

He spent his freshman year as a two-sport athlete at Stanford, playing safety for the football team and outfield for the baseball team. His athleticism stood out even after he moved full-time to baseball two years ago, as he makes great use of his power at the plate and his speed in center field. He just looks athletic, with the kind of filled-out frame you’d expect from someone who used to tackle running backs and chase down wide receivers.

Jones has heard the word “athlete” used plenty, too. But he would like to be considered more than that, and he’s ready to prove it after being selected 65th overall in this year’s Draft.

“That's probably the thing that comes to mind from everybody I've talked to and I've heard is just 'athlete,’” Jones said. “I think that's kind of the one thing that I'm not trying to get rid of, but I'm trying to stop ‘athlete-ing’ baseball, if that makes sense. I'm trying to actually become a baseball player, and that's something that I'm going to start taking a lot of pride in.”

To be clear, Jones knows his athletic ability gives him a chance to be special. Rays senior director of amateur scouting Rob Metzler said the Rays identified Jones’ talent back in high school, seeing him as a “true center field prospect with power and speed and defensive ability.” Some of that ability comes from treating center field like he’s playing in a one-high safety formation.

But as he prepares to enter the professional ranks, Jones wants to establish himself as a well-rounded baseball player.

“That’s what I’m most excited about. I’m very curious to learn,” he said. “I love getting beat up a little bit, challenging myself. Moving forward, just being around the game 24/7 is going to be a lot of fun.”

Jones believes he’s already come a long way since giving up football after his freshman season, which he called the hardest decision he’s ever made. His first year at Stanford, he didn’t pick up a bat all fall while playing football, and the game sped up on him as a result.

But when he focused solely on baseball, he fully immersed himself in the game, broke out during his sophomore season and wound up being a Day 1 Draft pick. Now, he can devote even more time and effort to becoming the well-rounded player he’s set out to be.

“It's definitely a pretty cool feeling … and I can kind of put all my time and effort into that,” Jones said. “I think the sky's the limit with that, just being able to test my ability and learn and just getting to work.”

Day 3 notes
• The Rays wrapped up the Draft with 10 selections on Tuesday: Mississippi State shortstop Kamren James and nine pitchers. As a whole, their 2022 class includes eight position players and 14 pitchers. They also expect to sign some non-drafted players in the coming days.

“We were chasing the best talent available,” Metzler said. “Able to get a really good group of position players, certainly Day 1 and Day 2, [and] balanced that out with interesting starting pitching prospects.”

• One of the Rays’ more interesting late-round picks was 17th-round lefty Levi Huesman from Hanover (Va.) High School. Huesman was rated MLB Pipeline’s No. 125 Draft prospect and considered a potential early-round choice, but fell late into Day 3.

“He’s a high-upside guy out of high school, projectable with a solid mix [of pitches],” Rays director of baseball operations Hamilton Marx said. “He’s a guy where signability obviously plays into things. We’ll see what happens, but he’s a guy that certainly has big upside.”

• Stanford lefty Quinn Mathews also presents significant talent and signability concerns. Jones’ teammate at Stanford, Mathews was MLB Pipeline’s No. 187 Draft prospect and viewed as a potential Day 2 pick before landing with the Rays in the 19th round.

“Mathews was somebody high on the board. Again, we’ll see what happens,” Marx said. “Performed really well at Stanford, four-pitch mix, big upside, would love to add him.”