Saturday, August 04, 2007

Welcome Back Adam Jones! 

A smashing 2007 debut from Adam Jones yesterday! First, a big catch in the first inning showed his no-brainer value to the club as a defender. Then, his first at bat of 2007 is a solid single. But it got better.

In his second at bat, he fouled off pitch after pitch from Jon Lester and on the tenth pitch of the at bat, dunked a shot into left field for a hit (though against any other left fielder but Manny and probably Ibanez, it was probably an out). This at bat was seemingly the undoing of Lester as he walked Jose Lopez on four pitches (now THAT is hard to do!) and then gave up a 3-run blast to Yuniesky Betancourt to give the M's their first lead.

But he wasn't done yet. His speed on the basepath completely got under the Sox skin in the pivotal sixth inning. Leading off in a 4-4 game, Jones hit a slow roller to short, but his speed forced the shortstop to throw quickly and offline. Jones had to avoid a tag, ran past first base but managed to reach down and graze first with his fingertips. At this point, he had former Mariner Mike Timlin's full attention, who sent several throws over to first before unleashing a wild throw that allowed Jones to go to second. Timlin then fielded a weak Jose Lopez bunt (dude needs some serious work on his bunting), and attempted to throw out Jones at third, but Jones beat the tag.

A groundout later, Jones was crossing home plate, giving the Mariners the lead for good and the M's their NINTH STRAIGHT win over the Red Sox at Safeco. If the M's manage to make it eleven, this could be the biggest story backdrop of the playoffs. After the game, Jose Guillen, who had criticized the callup of Jones on Thursday made sure to be one of the first to run over to Jones and congratulate him on the job well done.

And while the M's management continues to say that Jones will not be a regular, this is a flawed team with enough holes that Adam could easily take the Mark McLemore route to near-full-time play in August, and be a "regular" in September. We now have a legitimate center fielder to give Ichiro some well deserved rest, and he'll also be used to spell Ibanez, Guillen, Vidro and Lopez (with Vidro or Bloomquist playing 2B). And when he doesn't start, Jones gives the team a big bat off the bench that can stay in the field, so look for more pinch-hitting in the 5th, 6th and 7th innings.

The Mariners still have holes and flaws, but yesterday, they got significantly better by adding one Adam Jones.

Baseball HQ followed up with yesterday's post with more details on Adam Jones:

Mariners call up top prospect Jones...In a long-awaited move, Seattle called up 22 year-old Adam Jones (OF, SEA) in time for Friday night's game against the Red Sox. Back in the spring, Baseball HQ Minor League Analyst Deric McKamey listed Jones as the top prospect in the Seattle organization, and ranked him as the 51st best prospect in all of baseball. Jones made his major-league debut in 2006, but he struggled badly, batting just .216 with a 70% contact rate and .242 xBA in 74 AB. Can we expect a better performance this time around?

Year AB BA HR SB bb% ct% h% Eye PX SX SBO
===== === ==== == == === === == ==== === === ===
2005# 228 .286 6 8 9 81 33 0.51 89 107 18%
2006* 454 .273 16 15 6 81 31 0.34 102 111 19%
2007+ 420 .314 25 8 8 75 37 0.34 N/A N/A 14%

*Includes MLEs
+Non-MLE Triple-A stats

The most interesting aspect of Jones's game right now is his surging power trend. We don't have an MLE PX mark for 2007, but using Linear Weighted Power, the basis for PX, he has a score of 53, which is very good. As the Baseball HQ glossary puts it, "Baseball's top sluggers usually top the 50 mark." However, the power increase has come at the expense of his contact rate. Trading contact for power isn't uncommon among young, developing hitters, but the drop in contact combined with his high hit rate calls into question the legitimacy of his .314 batting average. Jones's running game has also suffered this season -- not only has he been running less often, but his success rate has fallen from 76% to 53%. Overall, he looks like a typical young player, going through some bumps as he refines his strengths and weaknesses as a hitter.

The Mariners aren't declaring what Jones's role will be just yet (manager John McLaren said Jones is "not going to be an everyday player"), though it's a reasonable assumption to think that they didn't call him up just to have him sit on the bench. As Market Watch analyst Jock Thompson pointed out on Friday, Raul Ibanez (OF, SEA) could be the biggest playing time victim, due to his rapidly declining skills. Jones is a tempting target for the final two months, but he may still go through some growing pains, especially with the shifts we've seen in his skills this season. Long-term, his outlook remains strong, but don't overpay for the remainder of 2007.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?