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Rays select SS Jones with 22nd overall pick

@juanctoribio
June 4, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- For an organization like the Rays, who rely on drafting and player development as opposed to zeroing in on free agency, the MLB Draft is a key opportunity to continue to add to an already impressive farm system. On Monday, with the 22nd pick in the Draft,

ST. PETERSBURG -- For an organization like the Rays, who rely on drafting and player development as opposed to zeroing in on free agency, the MLB Draft is a key opportunity to continue to add to an already impressive farm system.

On Monday, with the 22nd pick in the Draft, the Rays selected UNC Wilmington shortstop Greg Jones, adding a talented middle infielder to the system.

Draft Tracker: Complete pick-by-pick coverage

“He’s a top-of-the-scale runner,” said Rays scouting director Rob Metzler. “Greg Jones is an excellent athlete. He’s a middle-of-the-diamond player. He’s somebody we think can contribute on both sides, defensively and offensively, and we’re very excited to have him.”

Jones watched the Draft from his home in Cary, N.C., with family and friends. He had an idea that he would be drafted in the 20s, but when the Braves took shortstop Braden Shewmake with the No. 21 pick, Jones figured he would be the next middle infielder off the board.

“I was extremely excited,” Jones said about hearing his name called. “This has always been a dream of mine since I was a little kid. Just seeing how my hard work paid off is really a blessing.”

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound sophomore was named the Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year in 2019 after finishing second in the conference with a .341 batting average and hits (76). The 21-year-old switch-hitter led the conference in triples (9), runs scored (70), walks (55), on-base percentage (.491) and stolen bases (42), and he was also named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2019 CAA tournament.

“I’m 80-grade speed, so I always bring speed to the table,” he said. “That’s my best attribute about myself. [I’m a] quick twitch guy, can hit from both sides of the plate. Good range in the infield with a strong arm, and I love the game of baseball, so I’m going to play it at my hardest at any level I’m at.”

Because Jones’ top tool is that 80-grade speed, the highest number a player can receive, multiple scouts believe that he could ultimately end up playing in the outfield during his professional career. Jones, however, will continue to pursue being a shortstop at the beginning of his professional career.

“I’d like to stay at shortstop as long as possible,” he said. “I just love the position. I love going in the hole making plays. If I can fine-tune and perfect my craft at shortstop, I’d love to be an elite shortstop in the future. If things don’t fall that way, I’d be totally fine playing center field. I think I can make a big impact out there as well.”

The relationship between the Rays and Jones began while he was still a prospect at Cary High School. Metzler gave area scout Joe Hastings and regional scout Brian Hickman credit for keeping tabs on Jones throughout his career in high school and at UNC Wilmington.

“They’ve had a lot of interest in Greg since high school," Metzler said. "His development path worked best to go to UNC Wilmington, and the coaching staff there did a great job. Give Greg a ton of credit for how much progress he’s made in two seasons there. We’re thrilled to have him continue his journey in the Rays organization.”

As a Draft-eligible college sophomore, Jones does have the ability to return to school if the two sides don’t come to an agreement on a deal. The Rays have $3,027,000 to spend on their first selection.

“We’re optimistic we’ll have him in the organization relatively soon,” Metzler said.

With the 36th pick, the Rays selected JJ Goss out of Cypress Ranch High School in Cypress, Texas. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound right-hander posted an 11-2 record with a 0.64 ERA as a senior and struck out 147 over 87 1/3 innings.

Goss has a fastball that sits around 90-92 mph, but he has topped out at 96 mph over the last year. He also has a slider and a changeup, with the slider being his highest-rated pitch, with an 60 grade. He committed to Texas A&M as a sophomore in high school, and MLB Pipeline ranks him as the 24th-best prospect in the 2019 Draft.

“[Goss] has athleticism, arm speed, good size,” Metzler said. “Fastball, slider, changeup, we think project as real Major League pitches. Some range from 50 to 60 on our scouting scale. … He impressed us with not just stuff, not just physical ingredients, but his ability to compete was really impressive to us.”

The Rays then added another right-hander, Seth Johnson out of Campbell, with the 40th overall pick. Johnson struggled on the mound as a junior, posting a 4.61 ERA in 66 1/3 innings. He projects as a high-upside pick, however, particularly because of his ability to reach 98 mph with his four-seam fastball. Improving his control and command will be a key for Johnson as he begins his professional career.

“Seth Johnson is a unique college pitcher and he has a shorter track record, this being his first year of full-time pitching,” Metzler said. “But in terms of his arm action, delivery, body type, he really fulfills all the things we’re looking for in a young starting pitching prospect.”

Tampa Bay wrapped up the first night of the Draft by selecting left-hander John Doxakis out of Texas A&M. As a junior, Doxakis posted a 7-4 record with a 2.07 ERA in 16 starts. He struck out 115 over 104 2/3 innings, and opposing hitters finished with a .207 batting average against him. MLB Pipeline ranked him as the 44th overall prospect in the Draft.

“He’s a tested, strong SEC left-hander,” Metzler said. “Really good command, ability to pitch to both sides with weapons, fastball, slider, changeup. We were thrilled with that outcome.”

Overall, the Rays selected one position player and three pitchers (one high school, two college) on the first night of the 2019 Draft.

“We were prepared for any scenario that could come our way due to the great work of our scouting staff, our analyst team, front office as a whole,” Metzler said. “We thought it was a very positive outcome for the organization.”

The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Go to MLB.com/Draft for complete coverage, including every pick on Draft Tracker, coverage and analysis from MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter.

“Seth Johnson is a unique college pitcher and he has a shorter track record, this being his first year of full-time pitching,” Metzler said. “But in terms of his arm action, delivery, body type, he really fulfills all the things we’re looking for in a young starting pitching prospect.”

Tampa Bay wrapped up the first night of the Draft by selecting left-hander John Doxakis out of Texas A&M. As a junior, Doxakis posted a 7-4 record with a 2.07 ERA in 16 starts. He struck out 115 over 104 2/3 innings, and opposing hitters finished with a .207 batting average against him. MLB Pipeline ranked him as the 44th overall prospect in the Draft.

“He’s a tested, strong SEC left-hander,” Metzler said. “Really good command, ability to pitch to both sides with weapons, fastball, slider, changeup. We were thrilled with that outcome.”

Overall, the Rays selected one position player and three pitchers (one high school, two college) on the first night of the 2019 Draft.

“We were prepared for any scenario that could come our way due to the great work of our scouting staff, our analyst team, front office as a whole,” Metzler said. “We thought it was a very positive outcome for the organization.”

The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Go to MLB.com/Draft for complete coverage, including every pick on Draft Tracker, coverage and analysis from MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter.

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.