2013 MLB Draft Profile: JaCoby Jones, INF-OF, Louisiana State University
One of the larger draft enigmas for 2013 is Louisiana State infielder/outfielder JaCoby Jones. Depending on who you talk to, Jones is either a near-certain first-rounder due to his tools, or a considerable disappointment who will be lucky to go in the third round. Let's take a look.
Jones played high school ball in Richton, Mississippi and was one of the leading prep infielders in the 2010 draft, projected as a second or third round pick. However, his firm commitment to college ball at Louisiana State, as well as some doubts about his bat, knocked him down to the 19th round where the Astros were unable to sign him away from college.
Jones had a successful freshman year, hitting .338/.395/.467 with 12 walks, 37 strikeouts, and 13 steals in 195 at-bats. However, his sophomore season in 2012 was considerably less impressive, resulting in a .253/.308/.363 line, losing almost 200 points of OPS, with 15 walks and 47 strikeouts in 245 at-bats. He did hit five home runs in the Cape Cod League last summer, but continued to struggle with the strike zone, posting a 10/55 BB/K ratio.
Tools aren't the issue here; Jones has plenty. His arm strength, running speed, and power potential all rank at least above average, the complete physical package ranking among the best in the 2013 college class. However, scouts report problems with his swing mechanics that hold back his offense. He has a reputation for getting down mentally when things go against him, and his strike zone judgment is an obvious negative.
Jones has the range, arm, and athleticism to fit at several positions, including all the infield spots as well as center field. He has seen time at shortstop and center field in summer ball, but most of his action for LSU has been at second base. Jones is excellent with the glove at second, but locking in at that position increases the pressure on his bat and reduces his attraction for pro teams who are usually more interested in shortstops.
In general, Jones has yet to live up to his potential as a college player, but all the tools are still there. If he has a good spring, the relative paucity of college bats in the '13 class would make him a likely first-rounder. For that to happen, he has to tap into his power more consistently, sharpen his plate discipline, and in general demonstrate a lot more polish than he's shown so far.