The New York Yankees have selected Connor Jones in the 11th round of the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Jones, a junior, has pitched for the University of Georgia Bulldogs the past three seasons.
As a freshman, the Jones Creek, Georgia native went 0-0, with six appearances out of the bullpen. He pitched to a total of five innings and allowed just three hits and seven walks, while going on to strikeout four. The following season, Connor made 10 relief appearances for the Bulldogs. He went 0-0 on the season, while pitching 7.1 innings. Jones also recorded one save, six strikeouts and had an 11.05 earned run average.
In 2016, the southpaw moved into a starting role for the University of Georgia. He made 13 starts and two relief appearances. Connor logged a team high 75.1 innings, and went 5-6 with a 4.66 ERA. On the season, opponents hit .242 against him. He also recorded 74 strikeouts while allowing 37 base on balls.
Q: Congratulations on being selected by the New York Yankees in the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. What an amazing accomplishment. How did you initially find out that the Yankees were taking you with their 11th round selection?
“A: I was listening to the live tracker on MLB.com and I guess it was a little lagged because I kept getting texts congratulating me. I didn’t even know that I had gotten picked yet. About two minutes later, the tracker said the Yankees select Connor Jones from Georgia. It was awesome. I had an idea that I was going to be picked by somebody, but didn’t know it was the Yankees.”
Q: With such a historic and storied franchise selecting you today, what is your reaction to the Yankees drafting you?
“A: I am just honored, honestly. You either grow up loving or hating the Yankees, and that is a tell-tale sign that it is a historic and winning organization. You have to be successful to become that polarizing. It’s just an honor to be able to be drafted by such an elite organization. It’s something you dream about as a kid.”
Q: Prior to the draft, what where your communications with the New York Yankees Scouting Department?
“A: It’s interesting. The Yankees were a team that I don’t know if at first they were really interested in me. I happened to pitch at Missouri and think one of their Midwest guys happened to be there watching another player. I was pitching and happened to throw a great game. I think that started to get the ball rolling. We only had two weeks left in the season. From my understanding, I think they flew in one of their national cross checkers the next weekend to watch me pitch at Tennessee. I threw really well again, so I think that’s when the interest started.”
Q: Leading up to today’s events, were the Yankees the organization that showed the most interest in you?
“A: I would say so for sure. Going into today, I talked with their area guy and he said that he would like to make me the organizations first pick in the 11th round. They were the only team that said that, so to me, that showed the most interest out of anybody.”
Q: Do you expect to sign with New York quickly, or do you expect that it will be a longer process?
“A: I expect it to be fairly quick for sure. My advisor is handling all that right now.”
Q: As you can imagine, Yankee fans are always extremely interested in who the organization selects in the draft. Can you give the fans a brief scouting report on yourself?
“A: This year I was a left handed starter. I don’t know yet whether I will be starting or relieving in pro ball. I think I can do both, but honestly, I’ll do whatever they ask me to do to help the organization out. I have a fastball that usually sits between 92 and 94 that touches 96. Then I throw a breaking ball that’s a mix between a curve and a slider. Sometimes it has more slider depth and will be in the low 80’s (83-84) and sometimes it will have more curveball depth and will be 79-80. I am also developing a change up. I worked on that this year but I would say that my fastball and breaking ball are my two best pitches.”
Q: If you had to compare yourself to a current MLB player who would it be and why?
“A: I used to try and model myself after Jon Lester, who used to be with the rival Boston Red Sox. The only reason I say that is because he has a good fastball and a really good, sharp, breaking curveball. Nowadays, I don’t spend too much time thinking about that because I think that I am my own guy. I just try to be myself, whatever that is.”
Q: Who has been the most influential person in your baseball career thus far?
“A: My dad immediately comes to mind. He always believed in me and supported me. He always did whatever it took for me to improve. He was always behind my dreams and would do whatever it took for my dreams to come true. Having him as a constant support makes him the most influential person for me.”
Q: You logged a team high 75.1 innings this season for the University of Georgia. What can you attribute your success to?
“A: This was my first year starting, I was a reliever my previous two years. I would say just getting in a routine, honestly. Once I was able to get into a routine, I was able to put in the work each and every day. By the time that I took the mound, I knew that I did everything that I could to go out there with no regrets and just let it rip. That contributed to my success a ton.”
Q: Last Question, before I let you go, can you please describe how your overall draft experience been?
“A: Yeah, nerve-wracking. Suspenseful. It’s one of those things where you can kind of get an idea where you lie before the draft, but once the draft comes, it can completely change. From a player’s perspective, you just don’t ever really know. I would say suspenseful, but a great ending for sure.”
Connor, thank you so much for your time. Best of luck to you in the future. Hope that you enjoy the rest of this special day with your family and friends.