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June 6, 2012
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California junior left-hander Justin Jones became the 63rd player drafted under head coach David Esquer, taken by the Minnesota Twins with the second pick of the 26th round of the 2012 Major League First-Year Player Draft -- the 790th pick overall.
Jones, a native of Oakdale, Calif., was a seventh-round pick of the Chicago White Sox in 2009, but chose instead to pitch for the Bears. As a freshman, Jones earned Freshman All-American honors from both Collegiate Baseball and Baseball America, and was named to the All-Pac-10 First Team, after posting a 10-6 record in 18 appearances, allowing 102 hits in 98.0 innings of work with 73 strikeouts to just 29 walks.
After deciding that, should the Cal baseball program indeed be cut, he would attend Oregon for the remainder of his college career because, he said, Eugene reminded him of Berkeley, he took the hill for the Bears as a sophomore and himself helped to preserve what he called his "dream program,", going 9-6 with a 2.93 ERA and a career-high 119.2 innings of work, which led the entire pitching staff and ranks fifth on the program's all-time single-season list.
Jones struck out 81 hitters while issuing 31 walks and allowing just 22 extra-base hits in 20 games, and earned All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention recognition for his troubles.
Jones was one of the beating hearts for the 2011 College World Series team, throwing three times in three days for the Bears during the Houston Regional before tossing six shutout innings against Dallas Baptist in the first game of the Santa Clara Super Regional, before being felled by a stretched nerve under his left biceps.
After resting that golden wing over the summer, Jones had an uneven senior season, with disasters such as an eight-hit, 2.2-inning, eight-run outing against then-No. 18 Texas and flashes of brilliance such as a complete-game, two-hit, six-strikeout shutout against Washington State. Jones finished his junior year at Cal with a 4-9 record and a 4.57 ERA in 80.2 innings, striking out 50 and walking 31.
When Jones is on, he's a special pitcher. He has a 82-84 change up and a bit of a slider to go along with an 84-86 cutter, a 76-79 curve and an 87-91 fastball which could add two or three miles per hour if he puts on a little muscle. He's a touch-and-feel type hurler who's best command pitch is his cutter, but the curve -- which, depending on how hard he spins it, could be a power downer or a 12-6 looper -- is the main event. His biggest problem this season has been the fact that he didn't throw for six months following the nerve injury. Because of that, his first half of the year was basically a rehab stint, and he was never able to truly find a groove.
Jones has a rubber arm and a tireless work ethic with the pure stuff to be in the big leagues if not soon, then for a very long time.
However, given his lengthy fall in the draft from a projected third-to-fifth-rounder all the way to the 26th, it is looking very likely that Jones will return to Berkeley for his 2013 senior season.