The Twins today filled their 40 man roster (they can move Pat Neshek to the 60 day DL and still have an open spot) by re-signing Nick Punto and drafting Jason Jones from the New York Yankees in the major league part of the rule 5 draft (they lost 3 players in the draft and acquired one in the minor league portion, but this will be another post).
Who is Jason Jones?
Jason who turned 26 last November 20th, was selected in the 4th round of the amateur draft of 2005 by the Yankees from Liberty University. A couple of times he was named the pitcher of the week (2006, Florida State League) and 2008 (Eastern League). He was a Florida State League Mid-season All Star in 2006. His arsenal of pitches include a 2-seamer that tops out at 92 mph, a plus plus 81-83 mph slider with late breaking action in to lefties and away from righties, a split-finger fastball (his strikeout pitch) and a changeup that he throws occasionally.
He started his professional career with an excellent campaign in 2004, when he pitched 79 innings and started 14 games split between the State Island Yankees of the New York-Penn League (low A) and the Battle Creek Yankees of the Midwest (A) League. He accumulated a 2.62 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and had 7.67 K/BB and 5.24 K/9. In 2005 he was promoted to the Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League (high A) where he pitched 128.1 innings with disappointing results: 5.68 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 3.8 K/BB and 5.34 K/9. This drove two changes in his pitching style brought about by the Yankees pitching staff: a. a change in his mechanics and b. abandonment of his erratic curve ball for the favor of a newly tought split-finger fastball. In 2006 he split time between the Tampa Yankees and Trenton Thunder of the Eastern League (AA). His totals for the year were 3.39 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 2.39 K/BB and 5.22 K/9. The decrease in his K/BB was due to the increase use of the split-finger fastball that he was learning at the time. In 2007 he spent the whole season in Trenon where he pitched 131.2 innings resulting to a 3.62 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 2.51 K/BB and 5.35 K/9. He split last season between Trenton and Scranton of the International League (AAA) and pitched 160 innings accumulating a 3.26 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 2.04 K/BB and 5.74 K/9.
How does he fit in the Twins' plans? He could be a change of page reliever in the major league club (however, that would require that one of the current relievers or Phillip Humber who is out of options get dealt.) or his contract could be bought via a trade and have a spot in Rochester's rotation in 2009. If I were to guess, I would guess that unless there is a trade and he shocks the universe in spring training, he would either return to the Yankees or get traded by the Yankees and will start in Rochester. The Twins will surely get a good look of him in spring training because there would be several of their pitchers expected to play in the the World Baseball Classic, which would result in Jones pitching more innings.
Not much I can say about Nick Punto. We all know him. As I indicated previously, he was not that bad last year. He ranked 15th and above the major league average for shortstops in BFE. The huge perception of disappointment is probably a combination of the facts that a. people do not seem to forget 2007 and b. there have been no significant moves by the front office to improve this team. Yet. There are still about 4 months before the first pitch of the 2009 season is thrown, and I will wait to hold judgment about this off-season performance of the Twins' front office until then. For an organization that values "continuity" at all levels, this was not a surprising singing... However, this organization has not won much since 1991, so sometimes the pot needs to be stirred in order for results to be produced.
Time will tell...