Here's a Thought: The Quad-A Watch--Mitch Jones
Earlier articles in the Quad-A series:
Also, I'll re-link to my 2008 post about Quad-A, for those unfamiliar with what it means or why the hell I'm writing this "series" of sorts.
Perhaps no player in the minors in 2009 fit the "minor league slugger" stereotype more than Albuquerque Isotopes outfielder Mitch Jones.
Jones led the minors with 35 home runs despite appearing in only 108 games, just 3/4 of the season's total. He slugged a mighty .651, and was no slouch in batting average (.297) or OBP (.364) either.
Jones went 4-for-13 in a pinch-hitting gig with the Dodgers midseason; it was the 32-year-old's first big league action after a standout minor league career.
He is a career .251/.336/.504 minor league hitter with a whopping 236 home runs to his credit. He's best known for demolishing the pitcher-friendly Eastern League for 39 homers in 2004. He was 26 at the time, so the feat got little attention.
Jones has bashed 20 or more homers in every full year he's played since signing in 2000.
Early in his career, Jones, despite his massive power, was held back by poor averages and high strikeout totals. His .251 career average reflects this.
Unlike, say, Jack Cust, Jones also doesn't possess the plate discipline to offset the strikeouts and resulting poor average. He has a career 1192/472 K/BB ratio, which is measurably sub-optimal.
That said, Jones' AAA-level performance outdistances that of his lower-minors, as he's hit .270/.349/.555 in 463 games there, including the huge performance last year. After having huge strikeout problems in the past (most notably a horrific 35.6% K rate in 2005), Jones cut his strikeout rate to a respectable 26.4 percent last season, with a 102/40 K/BB ratio.
Jones was signed by Atlanta following the season; it was only a minor league deal.
Defensively, Jones is versatile, able to play first, third, and the outfield corners. He has below-average range but an above-average arm, making him an average defensive right fielder, or maybe just a tick below average.
The lack of excellent defense, the contact issues, and Jones' advancing age combine to destroy his perceived value, but the guy could be the Russell Branyan of 2010 if a team starts him 140 times and lets him be, delivering 30 homers or so.
It's tough to see a role for him in Atlanta. It's not the worst possible spot, as two of the team's six 40-man roster outfielders (Gregor Blanco and Jordan Schafer) may open 2010 in the minors, which would leave a spot open for Jones if the Braves want to carry five outfielders.
Matt Diaz and Melky Cabrera (a switch-hitter) are the only righties in the group, so it's possible the Braves could keep Jones on as a platoon/bench hitter, but most teams are averse to strikeout-prone PHs.
The presence of Brooks Conrad and Omar Infante, two utilitymen with OF experience, on the 40-man hurts Jones' chances even if Blanco and Schafer are deemed unfit for the bigs on opening day.
That said, Diaz and Eric Hinske, the other probable bench "outfielder," have been prone to cold streaks in recent years, so if Jones continues to tear it up in Triple-A next season, he may get a look if one of them struggles or gets injured. The Braves tend to be better than most teams at giving Quad-A guys (like Conrad and Diaz, for example) a look at the majors.
We'll just have to wait and see.
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