No. 1 – Adam Jones, CF
Posted by Jason A. Churchill on April 1, 2007
Strengths: Jones can do a little bit of everything, covering his skillset with above-average tools across the board. He’s taken quickly to center field after spending most of his first three pro seasons at shortstop. His offense has progressed nicely, backed with plus bat speed and an improving approach to hitting.
The San Diego native has developed quicker than expected and is near-ready for the big leagues at just 21 years of age.
Weaknesses: The former first rounder simply lacks experience, still, and should never have been plucked from his groove in Triple-A Tacoma last season only to make a handful of starts followed by a number of DNPMSDs (did not play, manager’s stupid decision), wasting weeks of development.
Jones still needs to improve his plate discipline and learn to hit pitches where they are thrown, and while he’s shown the ability to do so he’s yet to reach satisfactory levels in that area.
The breaking ball still gives him problems, however.
|21||6-2||205||Right||Right||Draft, 2003 – 1st round
Hitting for Average (On-Base Skills): Jones has made significant improvement in pitch recognition, plate coverage and overall discipline, and though he still has room to get a lot better, he’s reached a level that should allow him to be productive in the big leagues.
He’s still on the aggressive side, but that’s not going to change with any amount of experience and asking him to take more pitches just isn’t conducive to Jones’ style of hitting. As he continues to learn how to control the strike zone he’ll probably be capable of .350-.360 OBPs in his prime, carried by a .270-.280 batting average and a moderate number of walks.
Hitting for Power: This is the one area where the 21-year-old can still improve significantly. His bat speed is on the plus side and he’s already repeating his swing more consistently than some major leaguers with similar offensive skills. He’s still getting stronger and can cover any fastball without much problem.
Whether Jones is a 20-homer, 40-double type bat or is of the 30-30 variety remains to be seen, but the physical ability to launch 30+ longballs per season is certainly there. It would be an upset, however, if Jones failed to reach the 20-home run mark on a regular basis, and with his speed he could sit between 30 and 40 doubles a season as well.
Glove: Jones is a tremednous athlete, the best in the system, and his transition to center field is near completion – already – thanks in large part to his speed and natural instincts. He covers a lot of ground and his range will get better with more experience as he improves his reads, routes and jumps, but he’s made a lot of progress to this point and may ultimately become a plus defender.
Arm: Jones was scouted as a pitcher in high school, clocked as high as 95 mph, and he takes that arm strength to center field where he can really let loose. He’ll always put tons of zip on his throws, but accuracy is where he’s seeking to improve, as the throws he’s making now are significantly different than any he made from the mound or shortstop during the first 12 years of his baseball-playing career.
Baserunning: Jones has the speed and quickness to swipe 25 bases per season while legging out triples into the double-digit range, but his best work on the bases is done between first and third, and second and home on singles. He consistently gets good jumps and is aggressive enough to trust in game situations.
Future: Jones is going to start the year in Triple-A Tacoma, starting in center field and either leading off or hitting in the 2-5 range. The more ABs he gathers, the better, and the same goes for the reps he gets defensively.
Should an injury present itself around July or August, don’t be surprised if even a contending Mariners’ club calls for Jones to step in on a full-time basis. He’s that close.
MLB ETA: 2007
Ceiling: Torii Hunter, Mike Cameron, Jermaine Dye
Median: Craig Monroe, Reggie Sanders, Bill Hall
Cellar: Jose Guillen, Michael Cuddyer
PI Projection: .280/.340/.475, 80 K, 50 BB, 20 SB
Churchill on Jones: Adam Jones has as good a chance to become a regular – and a star – as any M’s position prospect since Alex Rodriguez more than 10 years ago. He’s backed up his skillset with a great work ethic and a desire to get better every season.
The way he took to the position switch says a lot about who Adam Jones is as a person and teammate, and the way he took to hitting Triple-A pitching at the age of 20 says all you need to know about Adam Jones the ballplayer.
I don’t think there’s any way he fails as a big leaguer. At the very least he’s a super sub with power and defensive versatility, but if things work out, he’s a multi-time all-star with more power and overall offensive ability than either Cameron or Hunter.
Defensively, the sky is the limit, though it may take him a few years to soar to such hiugher levels. He’d be adequate TODAY. Tomorrow, though, he might be better than that, without even playing a single game.
Jones should take over in center in 2008, with Ichiro sliding back to right field – if he re-signs. In three seasons, Jones should be ready to hit in the 6-hole in the M’s lineup, if not a slot higher.