What to expect from James Jones

JJones 300x199 What to expect from James JonesJames Jones was called up a few weeks back to give the club versatility and depth during their trip to Miami, but his recall Sunday is likely to mean a longer stay in the big leagues. Abraham Almonte was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma to get right. For the record, I prefer Almonte to Jones in the short term, but have no issue with Almonte being shipped out to clear his head, find his swing and gain some confidence. In the end, he’s still one of the best 25 players in the organization and certainly one of the best four outfield options.

Jones, 25, was No. 18 on my M’s Top Prospects List in the 2014 Prospect Insider Handbook. He’s performed well in Triple-A, posting a .313/.382/.450 triple-slash, including six extra-base hits and five stolen bases.

At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Jones is similar to Michael Saunders; left-handed with some power, runs well, throws well — Jones pitched at Long Island during his draft year — and his athleticism makes him adequate in center field.

Adequate does not equal ‘average,’ however, as he’ll occasionally pause before starting his route to the ball. Ultimately, like Saunders, he profiles better in a corner.

As for what to expect from him right now, it depends on how he’s used by Lloyd McClendon. Sitting and playing once a week is always a bad idea, in my opinion, but for Jones I do not like the idea of throwing him to the wolves, playing him regularly in center and high in the batting order where he may press or change what he is as a hitter, and I wouldn’t let him face a lot of left-handers.

He’s held hiss own against lefties in the minors, however, so I’d also avoid tagging him as a pure platoon option. His swing is a bit long, but its path to the ball is relatively short and engineered for line drives and contact. Despite being the size of a power bat, Jones profiles better as a Jacque Jones clone; medium power, some speed, some defense and baserunning.

It’s imperative, however, that he’s put in a position to succeed. If he can get comfortable he can be useful, and with athletes like Jones there is no telling what the ceiling truly is. Not suggesting he’s a future star of any kind, but he does possess all five tools and if the hit tool pops he could be a regular option down the road.

For now, it’s about his role and how the club handles his mindset during the positive and negative results alike.

He should NOT start regularly, period, which means he should NOT start ahead of Michael Saunders on a regular basis. If he churns out replacement-level performances, it’s a significant upgrade to Almonte, and there’s no reason Jones can’t do so.

Here is what I wrote about Jones in the handbook:

Jones, an athletic, rangy outfielder with a solid left-handed swing, but while it may seem time is running out — Jones is now 25 — he was mostly an arm at Long Island before the M’s tabbed him in round 5 in
2009.

If Jones is to play regularly in the big leagues, he needs to show more power than the 32 extra-base hits he produced a year ago in 422 plate appearances, including just six home runs. He did make better contact in 2013, tallying just 74 strikeouts, and could be ready to turn another corner in 2014.

Jones has a slightly-long swing, but good bat speed and a chance to hit .270 with 20 homers. Defensively
the arm is plus and then some, and he’s fringe-average in center while showing well above average in
right field.

Saunders has earned the right to start for this team with his recent surge at the plate. Doesn’t matter a whole lot if it’s in center field or right field, but he’s deserving of regular play. He’s the top option to lead off at present and not even Lloyd McClendon can dispute that barring a liar-liar-pants-on-fire convention coming to town.

Written by Jason A. Churchill

Moi2 What to expect from James Jones

Executive Editor
Jason founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at Inside the Park and covering prep, college and pro sports for several news outlets, local and national, including MLB.com and ESPN Insider. He currently serves as co-host of the Steve Sandmeyer Show on 1090 The Fan, CBS Sports Seattle.

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6 comments on “What to expect from James Jones

  1. Jason A. Churchill says:

    Edman,

    These are separate issues. Jones’ playing time and sitting Saunders in favor of Jones. For one, they don’t have to impact one another much at all. Second, Jones is not the kind of ‘prospect’ you protect with playing time. If a part-time role is what suits him best, then go for it. It’s different with Franklin because he’s only about 75% through his development and is an asset that loses great value by sitting him. Jones is already 25 and his ceiling — even for those who like him more than I do — is somewhere south of average everyday regular.

    Jones is much more like Romero. Play him if he’s the better bet to succeed that day. Don’t play him just to play him because you feel his development is being stinted if he’s sitting.

    Not all minor leaguers are prospects. Not all prospects should be protected in the same manner.

  2. b2b says:

    Logan Kensing is a righty, but does well against lefties. Stephen Pryor seems mlb ready again. Don’t know why the M’s have 6 guys that can play the outfield while the pen gets over worked..

  3. Edman says:

    While I agree that some care needs to be given in handling Jones’ playing time, then why bring him up, if you aren’t going to give him a chance to play? He needs to be playing. If all he’s going to do is sit on the bench, they had other AAAA players available that could fill that role.

    I also find it a bit interesting that on one hand, some are concerned with a hesitancy issue, while others say that they wait too long to make moves.

    Thus is the dilema of the internet. Everyone has opinions, and for every opinion, there is a counter opinion. There is no script to success, other than doing what it takes to win.

  4. mgvernon says:

    I agree with your assessment Jason, hopefully He Who Has The Pencil will slot him in down in the order and give him a chance to grow into his role, if he has what it takes to stick. Saunders has shown us the bat and the legs to justify leading off until such time as he falters. There’s not a guy on the team I would rather see succeed more than Michael. I’m concerned about how much slack they are going to cut Miller before they send him down. Unless he gets on track before too long I think a Tacoma rehab break might make it easier for him to find his swing. Hesitancy to make changes is not a management plus and the team should come before the individual players. Not that they shouldn’t be given opportunities to work through slumps but they waited too long with Almonte and it cost us.

  5. Edman says:

    Small sample size……enough said.

  6. John says:

    Getting back to .500 is encouraging, but the outfield and bullpen are still a mess. It’ll be interesting to see what we get out of Jones, but please please don’t do it at the expense of Saunders’ playing time.

    I’ve been terribly discouraged by McClendon’s use of the bullpen. Furbush has been a huge disappointment. There’s something going on with him. I would send him down to AAA if it weren’t for not having any other viable lefty option in the minors. Jason, are there any lefty relief pitchers in the minors worth a look? I don’t have much faith in him in high leveraged situations. Medina’s role also needs to be demoted to where Wilhelmsen is now. For me, Farquhar is the setup guy. Leone is the 7th inning guy. Beimel is my situational lefty.

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