Continuing our run through the 2017 MLB rookie class, we turn our attention to JaCoby Jones of the Detroit Tigers.
JaCoby Jones has been on the radar for several years, dating back to his days at Louisiana State University. He was a first round candidate for the 2013 draft but ended up falling to the third round, drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, due to an erratic college career. He demonstrated enticing power and speed abilities in the Pirates system but (as he had done in college) was inconsistent and struggled to hold the strike zone together.
The Pirates traded Jones to the Tigers in the summer of 2015 for Joakim Soria. He had a fair 2016 season in the upper minors and saw brief MLB action for the Tigers last fall, hitting .214/.214/.321 in 28 at-bats.
Jones ranked ninth on the pre-season Tigers Top 20 prospects list with the following comment:
9) JaCoby Jones, OF-INF, Grade C+: Age 24, third round pick out of LSU by Pirates in 2013, traded to Tigers in ’15, hit .257/.327/.407 with seven homers, 35 walks, 120 strikeouts in 369 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; I’ve given up trying to predict this guy; on the right day he’ll show you 60-power and 60-speed, plays hard, and is the best athlete on the field; on the wrong day he lacks energy and looks lost; strike zone judgment remains spotty at best; has tools to handle multiple positions and may ultimately fit best as jack-of-all-trades with a hot/cold bat. ETA 2017.
Jones had a successful spring training, hitting .314/.375/.490 with a pair of homers, three steals, four walks and 14 strikeouts in 51 at-bats. He’s 3-for-12 so far in the regular season but with a double, a home run, and three walks.
There’s never been any doubt about his physical potential; he has the natural ability to be a 20/20 player, but a long swing, substandard pitch recognition, and makeup concerns (he was suspended in 2016 for using a drug of abuse) have been issues dating back to college. In theory all of these things are correctable, and at age 24 there’s still time for that to happen. His defensive versatility is an asset and will help keep him in the picture while he irons out the bat.
2017 is off to a good start but we don’t have enough data yet to determine if the enigma of JaCoby Jones has been truly solved. The safe assumption is that he’ll continue to be erratic at times but that his production will gradually improve.