Wednesday, July 12, 2006

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!


At 7/12/2006 4:06 PM, Blogger PositivePaul said...

You're probably getting about as much done at work as I am - LOL! Glad to see you took my nudging over at PI to write something up here ;-)

Choo and even Jeremy Reed, when he was in Tacoma, seemed to have real trouble judging the ball off the bat.

This point is a very good one. I always thought Reed was a decent CF, but recognized that he had some troubles out there. I had no idea that he'd turn out to be as good in Safeco as he instantly did.

Adam Jones is MORE talented than Jeremy is defensively. He's adapted MUCH quicker than I expected, and he'll probably adjust to CF in Safeco just fine.

The more I think about it, the more excited I am by this move. I kinda expect him to burst onto the scene not unlike Cammy did (with his "Griffey, WHO?" HR-robbing catch, although I imagine it'll be AJ's arm that will be do it). It's entirely possible that he'll have a similar effect on the fans ("Jeremy WHO?").

He's a confident guy, and didn't fall apart when he was *clearly* overmatched after his last early promotion.

Again, I rely upon your Cheney attendance moreso than my own, and this is a very good point. Indeed he did seem to struggle early and has certainly reflected some confidence lately -- showing, perhaps, that he does have the cojones to handle whatever the M's FO and Hargrove throw at him for the time being.

He's definitely got the talent to stick. It may be jumping a bit too soon, but the M's have a serious need, and he's not struggling in AAA by any means.

At 7/12/2006 4:17 PM, Blogger marc w. said...

It doesn't really take someone who's seen him a lot - the stats are crystal clear on this. To go from 20ks to every walk to where he is now is nothing short of remarkable. You're just not supposed to do this, and in any other org, he'd have been pushed back to AA on June 1. This is a major test of Bavasi's org philosophy: promote early and often.

I'm still excited, despite Churchill's absolutely correct points. This DOES have the potential to backfire, and this DOES require Bavasi/Grover to not be idiots. But Jones has been one of the bigger helium prospects in recent memory, and like I keep saying, he simply shouldn't be improving this fast. Imagine what he'll be like when he's got four years in CF! Imagine what he'll be like when he's faced lefties for years, and the platoon splits start going the right way...imagine his 888OPS v. righties as the LOW side of the split!

At 7/12/2006 4:59 PM, Blogger marc w. said...

Thanks for the picture, paul - that's perfect!

At 7/13/2006 8:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As opposed to what, a photo of Angela Merkel eating foie gras?

At 7/14/2006 9:18 AM, Blogger marc w. said...

Hmmm; hadn't really considered that, but you make an intriguing point.

Angela Merkel, political parvenu, analagous to newly promoted CF... I see that. The foie gras is a perfect symbol as well; power/wealth reified in the form of liver pate.
How do we upload pictures, paul? I'll hit google images....

At 7/14/2006 9:25 AM, Blogger PositivePaul said...

Click on the picture that looks like this.

Then you can either upload a file directly from your computer, or put in the web address to a picture. Because I don't trust blogger, I generally use the link to my pix on my photography web site. But Blogger gives us 250 megs of web storage space for pictures and stuff, which is actually quite decent...

At 7/14/2006 9:33 AM, Blogger PositivePaul said...

Oh, and while I don't really want to go into politics (since I'm nowhere near qualified to), and even MORESO German politics (since I'm even LESS qualified to do so, in spite of having a degree in German and having passed the Prüfung Wirtschaft Deutsch International), I do find it very interesting that Germany is now lead by a) a woman and b) a former East German.

Shows you how completely out of it I am...


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