Interview with Blue Jays Jonathan Harris

Blue Jays RHP Prospect Jonathan Harris joined Jays From the Couch to discuss his first professional season, his off-season, and more

 

Born October 16th, 1993 in St. Louis, Missouri Jonathan Harris attended Hazelwood Central High School in Florissant.

Jonathan describes growing up in Florissant as having ‘it’s ups and downs’ and ‘it wasn’t like it [is] today with the Ferguson issue’. Ferguson, Missouri is where Michael Brown was shot and killed by officer Darren Wilson, followed by demonstrations, looting, and fires.

A young Harris remembers playing neighborhood football games, and having wiffle ball games in the street in front of [his] house.  Jonathan was really big into sports, and was always out playing soccer or baseball. In high school he played baseball, soccer, and kicked a football the last 2 years.

During his high school days Jonathan was a two-way baseball player, playing shortstop and first base when he wasn’t pitching. By his own admission, Jonathan wasn’t the greatest shortstop in the world, but could hold his own. His experience in the field has helped him know the angles to take and have the right footwork to get the job done.

As a pitcher for Hazelwood Central, Harris threw a fastball/curve/change combination helping him to a 2.77 ERA with a 5-3 record with 69K in 43IP as a senior and being selected in the 33rd round of the 2012 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays.

The son of Roy and Michelle Harris decided to attend Missouri State instead of signing with the Blue Jays. Jonathan didn’t feel ready, but mainly just really wanted to go to college. He wanted to experience the college life. He also felt that playing minor baseball during that stage in his life would have been too overwhelming and stands by his decision by saying,

It was the right decision because my heart was set on going to college. It was just a chance for me to get bigger and work on pitching so that I could get to where I am now

Playing for Missouri State Coach Keith Gutter was good for Jonathan. He felt that coach Gutter had faith in him and saw the potential. Gutter also helped Harris realize that you can only go so far on potential and that hard work is required to reach that potential.

It was under Coach Gutter when Harris started throwing a slider. Not many pitchers throw both a slider and a curve. It’s a combo that is not easy to master and one that Harris has had his share of struggles with. Jonathan admits to struggling with the consistency and release point of the slider. He is also working on making his delivery when throwing his curve, a delivery that appears less ‘natural’ than his fastball and slider delivery.

In three seasons at Missouri State Jonathan went 8-2, 3-5 and 8-2 for a 19-9 record while finishing with a 3.09ERA. He struck out 243 batters in 259.1IP, while walking 95. In his last year he struck out 116 in 103.0IP and only allowed 2 home runs. One of those home runs came off the bat of fellow Blue Jays 2015 draft pick Connor Panas during the 2015 Regionals.

Hahaha well [Connor Panas] actually reminded me that he was the one that hit the home run off me and let everyone in the clubhouse [in Vancouver] know about it. I laughed and just rolled with it. I just told him next time try to keep it in the ballpark instead of out of it but I wouldn’t change the pitch selection just have to have better pitch location

Toronto liked what they saw from Harris so much that they decided to take another stab at the 6’4″ right-handed pitcher with the 29th overall pick in the 1st round of the 2015 draft.

What did it mean being drafted by Toronto not once, but twice?

Well it was a dream in the making. Guess I was destined to be a Blue Jay if you get picked by them twice in a 4 year span. But it was still an amazing feeling getting the chance to continue playing this awesome game of baseball

 Harris signed for $1.944M and started his career with the Vancouver Canadians of the Northwest League where he went 0-5 with a 6.75ERA in 12 games (11 starts) and 36 innings. Not the success he was hoping for. Harris admitted to be tired from throwing so many innings during the college season, but didn’t use that as an excuse.

I went into Vancouver with a plan that would basically keep me in a 5 day rotation but with the amount of innings I threw at school they didn’t want to overload me. But I think a lot was fatigue because I have never thrown that many innings in my life. I think I was still trying to grasp my head around the fact that this had happened.

The talented young man had to adjust to throwing every 5th day, playing with a new set of coaches, and a new set of catchers in a new clubhouse. All while being on a hard pitch count designed to protect his arm. Again, Harris didn’t use this to excuse his sub-par start to his professional career

I mean in a way it did but either way I still had to go out there and perform and get outs no matter how many pitches it took to get a batter out

The talent is there. The maturity to take responsibility is there. The drive and work ethic are also there. The 2016 season will be a big season for the 22-yr-old, as he will get assigned to one of the Blue Jays’ full-season A-Ball affiliates. Blue Jays minor league fans will be keeping a close eye on his development as he is one of the few remaining high ceiling pitching prospects left in the system.

 

Five Question with Jonathan Harris

RM: Favorite St.Louis Blue hockey player (past or present)
JH: Al Macinnis

RM: If you weren’t a baseball player, what would you be?
JH: Teacher

RM: Favorite TV show
JH: Fast n Loud

RM: When working out/training which exercise/drill makes you think ‘WTF….again???’
JH: When I’m doing 300 yard shuttles or a circuit

RM: Besides yourself, whose the most talented person you know? Why?
JH: My 15-year-old cousin Tyler Bastunas, he works his butt off to be the best he can be. It’s just amazing watching him go through the same journey that I went on.

 

 *Featured Image Credit:  jcsullivan24 UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0

 

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Shaun Doyle

Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.