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Prospect Retro: Andruw Jones

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Per reader request, a Prospect Retro for Andruw Jones

Andruw Jones was signed by the Atlanta Braves in 1993, out of Curacao. He made his pro debut in 1994, hitting .336 with a .448 SLG and 16 steals in 36 games for Danville in the Appalachian League, obviously strong performance but impressive especially for a 17 year old. He would rate at least a Grade B prospect at this stage, and probably a B+. Scouts were already talking about him as one of the best prospects in the game, due to his combination of speed, power, and pure athleticism.

Jones spent 1995 with Macon in the Sally League, hitting .277/.372/.512, with 41 doubles, 25 homers, 100 RBI, 56 steals, and 70 walks in 537 at-bats. At age 18. I gave him a Grade A in my 1996 book, rating him as the Number Three prospect in baseball.

Jones began 1996 with Durham in the Carolina League, hitting .313/.420/.605 in 66 games. Promoted to Double-A Greenville, he got even hitter, hitting .369 with a .675 SLG (and 12 steals) in 38 games. "Well, this isn't much of a challenge for him," thought the Braves braintrust, "let's see what happens in Triple-A." Up to Richmond he went, and down went the pitchers in the International League, to the tune of a .378/.400/.822 mark in 12 games. This earned him a month in the majors, where he hit just .217/.265/.443 in 31 games. But overall 1996 was a remarkable season for Jones: he destroyed three levels of minor league baseball, at age 19. Grade A prospect, best prospect in baseball in the 1997 book. The top five, by the way, were Jones, Vlad Guerrero, Nomar Garciaparra, Scott Rolen, and Paul Konerko.

Jones hit .231/.329/.416 with 20 steals and 18 homers for the Braves in 1997, not that good in absolute terms, but extremely credible for a 20 years old. He's been productive for the Braves ever since. Although he's lost his speed, and some people have been disappointed in him at times, people need to put things in perspective. He's 28 years old and already has 301 career home runs. His power has blossomed this year, and I think he will continue to bash 40+ homers for the foreseeable future.

Andruw's minor league career was nothing short of spectacular, and he was considered a top prospect as soon as he started playing. His rise was very rapid, and he didn't really face any sort of challenge until he reached the major leagues.