Adam Jones Called Up
(heh. Gotta have some graphics! --PositivePaul)
So, you've read it everywhere else, and wanted to, um, read it again here at MM. It's true, Adam Jones is set to become the M's fourth starting CF in the past 20 games or so. And here we were all set to tune in and hear how he'd do in the AAA all-star game, which starts in about 45 minutes or so.
My thoughts: well, as you all know, I'm one of the bigger Jones believers out there; I've never seen such a young prospect learn so quickly. Everyone develops and learns new skills, especially gifted athletes like Jones. But his approach at the plate today is simply unrecognizeable compared to the Adam Jones of May. Not May 2004 or 2005, I mean about 10 weeks ago. Check out his minor league stats here - USSM/LL have quoted these, so it shouldn't be unfamiliar, but look at the month-to-month progression in OBP and K/BB ratio. That's astounding - to go from 20:1 in April to 1:5 in (small sample size) July... I don't know what to compare this to; what sorts of comparables would you use for this?
But does that mean he's ready for the majors? Well, honestly, probably not. He's still raw - punishing fastballs with his unearthly batspeed, but still trying to fight off breaking pitches. Having seen him a lot, I should say that a lot of the scouting reports are a bit too bleak on his ability to deal with off-speed stuff. It's not like he's 0-2006 on curves - it's a pattern, not an absolute rule. I'm also a bit worried by his weird reverse platoon split. He's shown a marked inability to hit lefties. Or rather, to make contact with pitches hurled by southpaws: he's 9-70 vs. lefties (.128), but 5 of those 9 are for extra-bases. I'm fairly certain this will level out as he gets more exposure to lefties, and who knows, maybe 'by the book' managers will help out and keep RHPs in to face him. The problem is that it will probably start levelling out sometime in 2008 or so. He's just not going to get the reps needed for a while yet.
Shin-Soo Choo's defensive struggles are what precipitated this move, so is Jones an improvement? Again, I think the scouting reports are a bit too pessimistic. His route running is suboptimal (though still probably an improvement over Choo), but he actually gets great jumps on the ball. Choo and even Jeremy Reed, when he was in Tacoma, seemed to have real trouble judging the ball off the bat. Jones always seems to know where to go. He may not know the best way to get there, and he's still prone to little mental lapses (he's made some silly errors - dropped balls, etc.), but the raw material of a plus-plus defender in center is there. His arm will surprise a lot of AL hitters trying to stretch a single into a double, and as many have pointed out, if the M's keep Choo around to spell Ibanez in left, the OF of Choo/Jones/Ichiro may be one of the strongest throwing OF groups in baseball history.
Will this hamper his development? It's tough to say - he was able to work through his struggles remarkably quickly in Tacoma. He'll probably struggle the remainder of the year, but Bavasi obviously believes in Jones' make-up. It's a tough call, but given what he did between May and June, or May and July, I'm inclined to give Bavasi the benefit of the doubt here. I would've loved to see the M's keep Jones in AAA the entire year, but we're dealing with a bad set of circumstances. On the plus side, and it's a big plus, the M's avoid making a rash trade for a crappy NL CF like Juan Pierre or Willy Taveras. Thank you, but we can put a low OBP fast guy out in CF AND avoid giving up prospects and cash. On the down side, this move signals that Choo got about 10ABs to prove himself, and that's insane. I'm hoping, though I have little faith this will happen, that Choo gets into some ballgames in left. If any of you are hoping for a platoon, Choo hits lefties about as well as Jones (although Choo's got the excuse that he IS left handed). My biggest fear is that this signals the end of Choo-as-Seattle-starter; that he's essentially typecast as the 4th OF that so many have pegged him at. [Edited after looking at JAC's wise words of caution/bile at prospectinsider]
The other potential problem is that the M's get tired of his struggles and rashly demote him. They've got to know that the kid needs reps - if he just struggles and they then bench him or drop him back, he'll be losing development time. I'm hoping Bavasi shows some backbone on this, but after what they've done with Choo ("Mr. Choo, thanks for coming in." "Hey, thanks, I just wa.." "NEXT!"), I'm not going to hold my breath. To sum up, Jones is a special kid, but it'll still take a front office/manager with some foresight and intestinal fortitude to make sure this goes well. Your evaluation of this move, as with so many others, is to a large degree the product of your faith in the people running this team. *gulp...*
From what I've seen, I'm not that worried about Jones' development or confidence. He's a confident guy, and didn't fall apart when he was *clearly* overmatched after his last early promotion. I see no reason to think this time will be different. That doesn't mean I think he'll actually hit well, of course, but stranger things have happened. The odds of this move doing serious damage to Jones as a prospect are low, but then the odds of this move spurring a pennant run may be lower. I'm a bit nervous, but more than a bit excited right now...
Welcome to the show, Adam!