With just 14 days remaining until the Braves kick off spring training, two outfielders are on the list of non-roster invitees.
While some prospects inside the organization will likely net invites, I don’t see the Braves bringing any more free agents.
The basic definition of a Quadruple-A player, Mitch Jones finally got a taste of the Major Leagues in 2009 after smashing homers in the minors since 2000.
A typical 10-year veteran with only 13 Major League at-bats is nothing to get excited about, but Mitch Jones isn’t your typical Minor League veteran.
Over his Minor League career, Jones has a .255/.341/.512 line in 3,877 at-bats. Also in those at-bats, 235 homers.
Unlike most players on the wrong side of 30, Jones has actually improved over the past couple years.
In his past three seasons (all in the Dodgers organization) Jones has hit .292 and knocked 70 home runs in just 772 at-bats.
While he has battled injuries recently, his best Minor League season came in 2009, when Jones produced a .297/.364/.651. He also added 35 homers and 103 RBI despite getting just 387 at-bats.
Those 35 home runs tied Jones for the Minor League lead despite having fewer at-bats than eight of the other nine players with 30 or more home runs.
Mainly a corner outfielder, Jones also has experience at center field, first base and third base.
Of all the players discussed in the NRI series, Jones is by far the guy I am most excited about.
Although he will probably begin the year in the minors, Jones should be the first guy called up (should Atlanta need an outfielder or corner infielder) and might finally get a chance to prove himself on the Major League level.
Once a highly rated prospect in the Detroit Tigers system, Clevlen comes to the Braves still looking to realize his full potential.
Despite being drafted in the second round back in 2002, Clevlen has played in the majors for only portions of three different seasons.
In 73 career Major League at-bats, Clevlen has posted a .233/.282/.425 line.
Even in the minors, Clevlen has been unable to live up to expectations. Over eight seasons, he has hit only .261/.340/.423 in more than 3,000 Minor League at-bats.
While his numbers in 2009 were slightly better than his career numbers, they give us no reason to believe Clevlen will help the Braves at all in 2010.
Perhaps the only thing that could favor Clevlen over Jones is that he has more experience in center field, although that gives him no advantage over Gregor Blanco.
If Jason Heyward starts the year in the majors, there likely won’t be any room for extra outfielders (as McLouth, Diaz and Cabrera are all basically guaranteed a spot).
Even if Heyward starts the year in the minors, Clevlen will need an amazing spring to begin the year in Atlanta, as I have to believe he stands behind Gregor Blanco, Mitch Jones, and possibly Jordan Schaffer in the outfield pecking order.
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