In the past couple of weeks, the hot rumor in circulation is that the Atlanta Braves are going heavy after Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles. The rumored deal involves Jair Juirrens and Martin Prado from the Braves for Jones of the Orioles. The holdup in the deal discussions has been what level of pitching prospect the Braves would additionally provide. There are some folks in the Braves’ fanbase and members of the national media that have wondered what all the fuss is about for Adam Jones, he of the lifetime .319 on-base percentage and sometimes questionable defensive ability.
Adam Jones was once a hot property of the Seattle Mariners and actually debuted with them in 2006 in his 20-year old season. In February 2008, Jones was the centerpiece of the deal that sent he and 4 additional players to the Orioles in exchange for Erik Bedard. It was seen as quite the coup for the Orioles at the time. Since 2008, Jones has been the Orioles everyday CF and provided them with WAR’s of 1.8, 1.8, 2.6, and 2.9 (in order) during that timeframe.
Jones’ career batting line is .275/.319/.437 (756 OPS) with an isolated slugging percentage of .161 and a weighted on-base average (wOBA) of .329. Considering that an average wOBA is considered to be .330 and you see that Jones’ batting contributions have been so-so, even though he is a good source of power as he matures, as evidenced by his 25 HR in 2011 and .339 wOBA.
OK…so what does any of this have to do with Pirates’ prospect Starling Marte?
To go along with the career batting line shown above, Jones also sports a career BB rate of 4.8% and a K rate of 19.7%. Both of those rates are very similar to Marte’s rates this year, with the caveat that Marte did that at the AA level and not the major league level. However, the point being is to show that for those folks who follow prospects and fret about Marte’s low walk rates, there is a good example of how a player can still be an above-average regular without a strong walk rate.
The reason why we here at Pirates Prospects have been so bullish on Marte for 2 years now is that we feel that Marte brings more to the table, even if his bat does not develop. His speed and outfield defense will make him an attractive asset. Both of these tools are more highly regarded than Jones’ present-day speed and defense.
Adam Jones has a career UZR/150 rating of -3.4, with 2011’s season rating of -8.5. Pairing that with his above-referenced league-average wOBA (it was slightly above-average in 2011 with a .339) and you would get the makings of an average or slightly below-average player. However, Jones had his highest career WAR last year with a +2.9, as his baserunning metric buoyed his total. This emcompasses not only pure stolen bases, but also taking the extra base from 1st to 3rd and moving up on sacrifice flies.
Let’s look at Jones’ worst full-season offensive stat line from 2008, which was his first full-year in the majors. That year, Jones had a triple slash line of .270/.311/.400 (711 OPS) for a .313 wOBA and an ISO of .130. It is hard for me to believe that Marte, who has never batted below .300 in the minors since coming stateside, can not put up at least a line like that in his first full year. In 2008, Jones was shown to be competent in CF with a 6.6 UZR/150 and good baserunning metrics. With that blah offensive line and good secondary skills, Jones had a 1.8 WAR for the year. Essentially, he was to be considered an above-average player, using the 2.0 WAR threshold. During that 2008 season, Jones hit 9 home runs. It remains to be seen what Marte’s true major-league power ceiling will be, but I would conservatively say that 15 may be his max. So while Marte may not hit 25 like Jones did in 2011, or have a .170 ISO in his career, he may balance that out by stealing many more bases than Jones has done heretofore.
Although no two players are perfect comps for each other, it is interesting to see a player in the major leagues that is giving his team good value with what statistics show is just a league-average bat, home run totals not withstanding.