Here we are. The final five. The top names in the organization. The cream of the crop. The guys that the Mariners are hoping become their biggest guns.
5. James Jones
Position: OF | Hits: L Throws: L
DOB: 9/24/1988 | HT: 6’4″ WT: 193 LB
Notes: Jones is an extremely athletic young man who has spent the last year and a half learning how to play the outfield and hit consistently. Before being drafted by the Mariners, Jones had primarily been a hard-throwing pitcher with poor command who DH’d once a week or so. Most teams saw him as a pitcher, but weren’t sure what specifically to make of him beyond that. The M’s saw something else and ran with it, and so far it’s worked.
Jones got off to a cold start in 2010, but adjustments to his swing and approach paid off and he hit a torrid .321/.387/.487 after the Midwest League All-Star break. The timing and basic mechanics of his swing are sound, but he struggles with a bit of a chop that leads him to pound the ball in to the ground at times. That reduces his power output significantly, and his overall potential would increase significantly if he can correct it.
Still, Jones does well for himself. His athleticism and determination serve him well, and he has put up good power numbers in spite of his groundball tendencies, using his speed to grab extra bases whenever he can. If there’s anyone in the system who can eventually become a regular 20/20 threat, it’s Jones.
Jones’ overall contact rates leave something to be desired, however, as he learns pitch recognition and works at getting his swing consistent. He is slowly improving with his strike zone discipline at least, evidenced by his improving walk rates. That might become his best sign of improvement overall, as the game slows down for him and becomes simpler.
Defensively, Jones is very much a work in progress, but a promising one. For the time being he’s mostly played in right field, but his athleticism could let him handle center capably if he can adjust to the different angle of tracking fly balls, which can be more difficult than many give it credit for. His arm is strong for any position, and among the best in the system.
Jones is off to a rough start again this year, however, and still has a lot to prove. Even once he gets things back together this year, however, he’s going to have to do remarkably well and show good progress with his swing and discipline. The environment of High Desert will do little to assuage any doubts as to his offensive capability, but if he can put up some sound, consistent numbers, it’ll help show good progress for Jones’ currently raw state of development.
2011 Outlook: Should remain at High Desert to build consistency and confidence.
Major League ETA: 2013