Pirates Notebook: Could Garrett Jones be part of the future?

One thing that always frustrates me as a Pittsburgh Pirates fan is the fact that we never seem to stumble on to the “where did that come from” major league players. I’m talking about guys like Jorge Cantu with Florida last year, or Kyle Lohse with St. Louis. Even when we try, like adding Eric Hinske, who hit 20 homers for Tampa Bay last year, it doesn’t work out.

Maybe Garrett Jones could be that guy for us.

Jones doesn’t have any past major league success like a Jorge Cantu. He’s more of a blocked prospect, if you can call a 28 year old player a prospect.

Jones signed with the Minnesota Twins in 2002, three days after being released by the Atlanta Braves, the team that drafted him in the 14th round of the 1999 draft. Jones was a disappointment in Atlanta, batting .236 in 457 at-bats in three seasons of rookie ball.

Jones didn’t start to see success until he reached AA, batting .311 with 30 homers in 450 at-bats at the age of 23. He went to AAA, where he struggled his first two years, hitting for a .241 average. Jones did show some power, hitting for over 20 homers each season, and combining for a homer every 22.51 at-bats.

In 2007, Jones put together a nice season at AAA, batting .280 with 13 homers in 400 at-bats. The season was nice when you consider that Jones was called up on three different occasions to the majors, combining for 84 plate appearances in a total of 61 days.

Jones never really had a shot at first base with the Twins, thanks to the position being occupied by Justin Morneau. The Twins obviously saw something in him, giving him time in the outfield in 2007, then again in 2008. Unfortunately, Jones was on the back burner, as the 2008 major league outfield included Carlos Gomez (the key piece in the Johan Santana trade), Delmon Young (received in exchange for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett), Denard San (hit .294 in 2008), and Jason Kubel (provided power with 20 homers).

With four good options, and Michael Cuddyer on the bench, there was no room for Jones, even when you factor in the DH spot.

Jones looked good in Spring Training this year, batting .294 with four homers in 51 at-bats. He carried that success over to AAA, where he hit for a .307 averae with 12 homers in 277 at-bats. After two hits tonight, Jones is hitting .296 with two homers in 27 at-bats.

Jones has hit for power with a poor average at AAA (2005-2006). He’s hit for a good average with a dip in power at AAA (2007-2008). This year he’s accomplished both feats, and has done so every step of the way, from Spring Training to AAA, and now in the majors.

It’s only 27 at-bats, so it’s hard to call Jones part of our future, but combine those 27 at-bats with his AAA success this season, and he starts looking a lot better. This isn’t some minor league journey man. Jones is a guy who was in a great farm system, and was blocked by the players on the major league squad in Minnesota. This is a guy who has never received a fair shot.

Chances are we will see Adam LaRoche traded by the end of the month. Steve Pearce isn’t exactly lighting it up in his time in the majors (although he’s not getting many at-bats), and with Eric Hinske gone, it appears that Jones is the best option available to the Pirates, possibly until Pedro Alvarez gets to the majors (I’ve seen his defense first hand, his future isn’t at third base).

Jones is a hot hitter right now, and who’s to say that this isn’t what he’s capable of with a legit chance to play? I say give him his shot, and let him take over at first base if/when LaRoche gets dealt. He provides some much needed power to the lineup, and techincally he’s a rookie, with six years of control available to the Pirates, so long as they keep him on the 25-man roster.

The MVP Tracker

The MVP Tracker is updated with last night’s loss. Here are the big performers for tonight’s win:

1. Jack Wilson: .248 WPA
2. Garrett Jones: .107
3. John Grabow: .106
4. Paul Maholm: .097
5. Jason Jaramillo: .087

Other Stuff

-The Prospect Watch for 7/7 is up.

-Evan Chambers’ bonus is reported to be $423,900, which is exactly at the estimated slot price for that pick. This is according to Baseball America and PGCrossChecker.com. Chambers has been doing very well at State College. The Draft Pick Signing Tracker is updated.

-Dejan Kovacevic has updates on three guys in rehab work: Phil Dumatrait, Tyler Yates, and Neil Walker.

-Ken Rosenthal had this to say about the Pirates and Rockies:

One player the Pirates would love to get as a possible replacement for second baseman Freddie Sanchez: Eric Young Jr., who has a .386 on-base percentage at Class AAA with the Rockies. But Young, 24, also looms as a potential replacement for the Rockies’ current second baseman, Clint Barmes, who has two more years of arbitration. Barmes for reliever Matt Capps? It would make little sense of the Pirates, who are going young and cheap . . .

A lot of thoughts on this. First, I don’t like Clint Barmes. He’s 30 years old, and has horrible numbers away from Coors.

As for Young, he was rated the #18 prospect in Colorado’s system by Baseball America, and at 24 years of age is hitting .291 with 47 steals in 302 at-bats at AAA this season. This is following a 2008 season at AA where he hit .290 with 46 steals in 403 at-bats, and a 2006 season in high A where he hit .291 with 73 (!) steals in 540 at-bats. So at every level he’s been a .290 hitter, with incredible speed on the bases.

I’m not a big fan of trading Sanchez, mostly because we don’t have a reliable replacement for him. I’d be fine getting Young to replace him. As for a Matt Capps trade, it wouldn’t surprise me. I just hope we’d get more than Young for an established closer like Capps. Looking at Neal Huntington’s trade history, I’d expect that we will see a pitcher coming back to us in any trade we might make.

-Pat at WHYGAVS has some great stuff on Ross Ohlendorf’s lost velocity. Awesome read in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Jim Rosati

    I hope Garrett Jones can end up being that "where did he come from" type of player. Do I think he will be? No. But I hope so.

    As far as Eric Young, Jr. goes…I did a little looking into his stats. If you take into his home/away splits and factor in where he playes (Colorado Springs), he all of a sudden does not seem too impressive. Would I take him…sure, but for Capps, he better not be the center piece.

  • Tim Williams

    We talked about it on Twitter, but here are his splits:

    2009 (Colorado Springs, AAA)

    Home: .331/.433/.459 in 133 AB
    Away: .264/.341/.356 in 163 AB

    2008 (Tulsa, AA)

    Home: .289/.394/.345 in 197 AB
    Away: .295/.392/.440 in 207 AB

    2007 (Modesto, A+)

    Home: .308/.368/.477 in 279 AB
    Away: .281/.355/.397 in 267 AB

    He's been a .290 hitter at every level. He's also been fine on the road in other levels.

    I think this is just a case of Young not being ready at AAA yet. If he was with any other team, and not playing home games in Colorado Springs, he'd probably be a .265-.270 hitter right now. I don't think that's uncommon for a player in his first half-season at AAA.

    Finally, I'll point out his splits in high A ball (skipping AA, since he was injured the first half of the year):

    April: .237
    May: .246
    June: .273
    July: .358
    August: .304
    September: .563 (16 AB)

    He got off to a slow start at the level, but adjusted in the second half. I think we're seeing the same case at AAA, and it's masked by his elevated performance at Colorado Springs.

    Should have made this a blog post…

  • Jim Rosati

    Ok…you convinced me. Like I said, though. We should still get more for Capps than just Young.

  • Tim Williams

    I agree. I'd want more for Capps. At least a pitching prospect in addition to Young.

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