Not a Rookie: Adam Jones
Adam Jones was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the supplemental first round in 2003 out of high school in San Diego, 37th overall. For awhile in high school he was better regarded as a pitcher due to a 92 MPH fastball, but the Mariners decided to use him as a shortstop. He was considered highly athletic but very raw. He hit .284/.368/.349 in rookie ball, showing very little power. I gave him a Grade C+, rating him as raw but promising.
Jones moved up to Wisconsin in the Midwest League in 2004. He hit .267/.314/.404 with 11 homers, 33 walks, and 124 strikeouts. Defensively he showed a strong arm and the potential to be excellent at shortstop with more experience. Offensively he showed some power development, but his approach was very erratic. I wrote in the book: "Jones has bat speed, but his approach is very inconsistent, even from at-bat to at-bat.. . in one game I saw, he worked the count very effectively in one at-bat, then was completely helpless and overaggressive the rest of the game." I gave him another Grade C+.
Promoted to Class A Inland Empire in 2005, Jones hit .295/.374/.494 in 68 games. He moved up to Double-A San Antonio at mid-season, hitting .298/.365/.461 in 63 contests. He looked good with the glove but by the end of the year the Mariners had decided to make him an outfielder due to organizational needs. Offensively he hit 15 homers with 30 doubles, showing improved power development. His strike zone judgment improved as well. Seeing him play late in the year for San Antonio, I wrote "His balance at the plate looked much better, and he did a stronger job working counts" compared to what I saw the year before. I rated him at Grade B+ in the 2006 book.
Jones spent most of 2006 in Triple-A, hitting .287/.345/.484 in 96 games for Tacoma, with 16 homers. He hit .216/.237/.311 in 32 games for the Mariners. He developed into an excellent defender in the outfield. Offensively his power continued to come along, but his strike zone judgment still needed work. I gave him another Grade B+, high on the long-term but advising that he needed more Triple-A time and that he wouldn't put up big major league numbers in the short run.
2007 was another split season between Tacoma and Seattle. He hit .314/.382/.586 with 25 homers in 101 games for Tacoma, and .246/.300/.400 in 41 games for the Mariners, though he got just 65 at-bats in the majors. The power production has really improved, while strike zone judgment remains an issue. Given his age (22), his performance has been very credible, at least compared to the punchless rookie ball kid he was four years ago.
In the majors, Jones is a career .230/.267/.353 hitter in 73 games, 139 at-bats, too much playing time to qualify as a rookie though he's hardly established. He gets a chance now in Baltimore. What should we expect?
Short term, 2008 predictions
Weighted Mean PECOTA: .273/.333/.468
I like Jones in the long run. The increase in power has been notable, his defense is a big plus, and he's shown a great work ethic and attitude in making these improvements. But he still has a strike zone control issue, and at this point I will be surprised if he does much in the batting average and OBP department right now. I suspect he will be rather erratic this year, improve slightly in '09, then break out in '10. One key will be getting consistent playing time, not getting jerked around by an impatient manager. They need to let him play and play a lot so he can work his problems out.