On Friday, February 15, the Mets signed RHP Zack Jones to a minor league contract. The 28-year-old has had a tumultuous career to this point. Since being drafted, Jones has battled through multiple injuries and traveled the world looking to land on his feet in the Major Leagues.
Coming from San Jose State, Jones thrived in the minor leagues for the Minnesota Twins alongside the likes of Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios. In 2015, Jones made it as high as Double-A striking out 30 batters in just 27 innings pitched. In 2016, Jones got picked up by the Milwaukee Brewers in the Rule-5 Draft and ended up injuring his labrum almost immediately. The Brewers then returned him to the Twins, who eventually released him.
Jones opted to play in the Mexican Pacific Winter League in 2018 which revitalized his career. In 21 innings, Jones racked up 27 strikeouts while sporting a 3.43 ERA. Jones went on to play Independent League baseball where he really thrived with a 2.03 ERA while striking out 38 batters in 26.2 IP.
Although Zack has been injured for a majority of his career, it seems like he’s on the right track to give the Mets bullpen depth that they need. Zack was kind enough to take time out of his rigorous training schedule to answer questions for MMO.
MMO: Hey Zack, I really appreciate you doing this. I’m new here at MMO but I know Mets fans want to know more about you. It’s Zack with a K right, we don’t have another Zack Britton situation on our hands here?
Jones: Yeah its Zack with a K. Half the articles I see online spell it with an H, but it’s with a K.
MMO: You get drafted in the 24th round by the Kansas City Royals on June of 09’ as an 18- year-old. You decided to defer it and play college ball at San Jose St. Growing up in San Jose, was this something your heart was set on since you were a little kid?
Jones: It was a better option for me at the time. Unless I got life-changing money, I was staying local and I had a great time there.
MMO: It turned out to be a great decision because in 2012 you got drafted in the 4th rd by the Minnesota Twins. What was that day like for you?
Jones: I was at my apartment complex, on the phone with the Washington Nationals. They were asking me a few questions and I got drafted by the Twins at the exact same time. It was a surreal experience.
MMO: Over the next couple of years, you work your way through the system and then things started to take a turn. You get picked up by the Brewers and then returned back to the Twins. In 2016, you underwent surgery for a torn labrum. That whole experience must have been tough, how did you deal with it?
Jones: I’ve been on the DL for three years of my career. I’ve had a couple of surgeries, but I’ve always had high spirits. I’ve always tried to use rehab as a growing experience. I have this set amount of time that I’m not worrying about getting guys out so I can focus on how to get guys out and bettering my game.
MMO: How’s your shoulder feel now?
Jones: It feels good. I bust my ass in the gym and I bust my ass with nutrition. My shoulder feels pretty damn good. I’m throwing pretty hard and my fastball is pretty live right now. I’m very happy with my shoulder right now.
MMO: Unfortunately, there is no pitch tracking info for MiLB. Can you give us some insight on what pitches you’re currently throwing?
Jones: I left the Mexican League throwing a four-seam fastball about 94-97, curveball and changeup. I’ve always lived and died with a very high spin rate on my four-seam. That kind of gives it that riding effect.
MMO: I recently took a deep dive into Pitch Tunneling. What are your thoughts on the concept?
Jones: You can see the effectiveness of Pitch Tunneling by guys who do it really well. When you look at some guys who dice people up with an 89 MPH fastball and a subpar breaking ball, that’s the effect of tunneling. It’s all coming from the same window. Hitters don’t recognize it until its right on them.
MMO: Do you see yourself as more of a multi-inning reliever or as a traditional one-inning guy?
Jones: I can go two innings. I’m mostly used as a one-inning guy but I don’t prefer one or the other.
MMO: What was your reaction when you got the call from the Mets?
Jones: I was very excited. Free agent signings are nice because the team that’s signing you is looking for a need in their organization and it feels nice to be that need. I’m hoping I can make a pretty positive splash in Spring Training.
MMO: This is one of your first introductions to Mets fans, so do you have anything you want to say to them?
Jones: I’m excited about the opportunity. I know the fans in New York are passionate. I’m excited to get there and help this team win games. I’m seizing this opportunity and am going to make the best of it.
Zack was kind enough to send me this video of him pitching from the Mexican League as can be seen below.