On Sunday, July 5, it was announced that Orioles center fielder Adam Jones would represent his team in St. Louis, at the All Star Game. The 23-year old outfielder has made his mark so far, with a .308 average, 12 home runs, 46 RBI, 91 hits, a .364 on base percentage, and 17 doubles.
So far, O's fans can't ask for more out of Jones. He's cut down on the strikeouts, has shown more power, has driven in runs, and also has five outfield assists, which leads all American League center fielders.
Not only is Jones playing well, he's happy where he is.
"Being over here in Baltimore is a dream come true," said Jones. "I think it's the best thing that happened to me and my career. Coming to a franchise that was rebuilding, and getting an opportunity to play every single day, that's all I ask. Over in Seattle, I wanted to play every day. I loved their franchise, but it didn't work out there, so I'm glad that I'm here. I was telling George (Sherrill, who was an All-Star in 2008), 'Now, they have two All-Stars that they traded away.'"
Jones is now batting second in a potent O's lineup. However, most see him in the No. 5 hole for the future. He fits it perfectly. He can hit for power, has been clutch all year long, and he'd fit in perfect behind catcher Matt Wieters and left fielder Nolan Reimold.
Right now, that doesn't matter for the Orioles. They know they have a superstar on their hands. Before the year, analysts envisioned Jones as a five tool player who was a breakout candidate. But I don't think they saw Jones as a guy who could hit over .300 with over 20 homers and 90 RBI (what he's on pace for).
ESPN's Tim Kurkjian wrote a column in April about Jones' progression. He made an interesting observation on Jones' build, saying he "has an Eric Davis-type body, but bigger." In his career, Davis was good for 17 years, hitting 282 home runs, driving in 934 runs, and making a pair of All-Star Games.
If Jones can have numbers even similar to those, the O's certainly wouldn't complain. And if Jones can improve, which is likely, he'll be even better. Why do I say he'll improve? His attitude.
"I'm always trying to get better," Jones said. "That is my goal every year."
Before the year, analysts were tabbing the O's young outfield of Felix Pie, Jones, and Nick Markakis as one of the best in baseball. However, it was mainly because of Markakis, the golden boy who could do everything.
Markakis hit for average, power, had solid plate discipline, and had Gold Glove-worthy defense. Jones was viewed as part of that outfield, but not the best part of it. Now, he's the lone Orioles All-Star.
Not only do most view him as a better player than Markakis at this time, they also think Jones has a brighter future than Nick. And that's not a knock on Markakis, who, at 25, is one of the premier outfielders in baseball, and was even very much deserving of an All-Star Game bid.
But everyone knows, that at this point, Jones is more of an All-Star. Over the offseason, the O's made two great moves, re-signing right fielder Nick Markakis (six years, $66.1M), and second baseman Brian Roberts (four years, $40M).
Obviously, Jones has to be next on the list of players to re-up. He's a huge part of the future of the franchise, and the O's need to give him a huge contract to make sure he doesn't even think about leaving Baltimore.
Andy MacPhail sent a message to the rest of the organization when he re-signed Markakis and Roberts this offseason, showing that, when competence is exhibited at the major league level, there will be reward. And also showing that the team is committed to homegrown talent. It sends a message to the minor leaguers, the incoming free agents, and even the players on the team.
I'm sure when Markakis signed on for six more seasons, it sent a bold message to everyone, including Jones. I'm sure when Markakis signed, Jones knew he was worthy of that same extension, and at this point, one could argue he's worth an even more lucrative deal.
Jones has immediately become a fan favorite in Baltimore. He's been consistent throughout the year, has entertained fans with his clutch hitting, elite defense, and aggressive baserunning.
I'm sure the extension won't come anytime soon, not during the season at least, but the O's should definitely lock Jones up for at least six years. He's becoming one of the best center fielders in baseball, and he deserves his payday. The O's must re-sign him.