The West Virginia Power have been familiar with breakout seasons from prospects the last few years. Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson broke out at the level in 2012. Tyler Glasnow had a breakout season in 2013. The 2014 breakout player could be JaCoby Jones.
The Pirates drafted Jones in the third round last year as an outfielder, but gave him some work at shortstop in his first pro season. This year they came into the season with the plan of moving Jones to shortstop full-time. He’s athletic enough to play the position, and has some good tools, although the results have been mixed. That’s to be expected from a guy learning a position.
The impressive thing about Jones this year has been his power. Through Tuesday’s game, he had 14 doubles and 14 homers in 285 at-bats this season, with a .491 slugging percentage and a .203 ISO. Those are impressive numbers from a shortstop, which is why Jones will get plenty of opportunities to learn the position.
“When we drafted him we felt he had a lot of tools,” Neal Huntington said about Jones. “He just needed baseball repetitions and just needed an opportunity to go out and play on a regular basis. And JaCoby, we put him at shortstop and wanted to see if the athleticism could play there. Made some errors but he’s grown, he’s gotten better. Our guys have been very encouraged with what they’ve seen there. Obviously the bat, the speed on the bases, the athleticism, there is some thunder to the bat, command of the zone fairly well. Performed in his first full season out as an above average offensive player in the league. He’s doing a nice job.”
There have been some flaws at the plate, specifically a 26.4% strikeout rate. However, the offense has been impressive overall, with a .288/.357/.491 line. Aside from the power, Jones is also getting on base at a good rate. Considering that Jones is a college guy, the offensive success would probably warrant a promotion soon. The only thing holding him back might be that defense.
Bradenton has Adam Frazier as their shortstop. He’s a speedy infielder who hasn’t been hitting well this season, but has started to pick up the pace a bit with the bat. The Pirates wouldn’t be able to play both guys at shortstop, obviously, which means they either need to decide between keeping Jones in West Virginia for shortstop reps, or bringing him up to Bradenton to challenge the bat, while basically giving up on Frazier as a shortstop prospect.
While the bat warrants a promotion, it might be best to keep the current alignment, giving both guys a chance to develop at the position. It’s no guarantee that either one will make it as a shortstop. Jones needs work defensively to learn the position, while Frazier needs to continue to show improvements with his offense. I’d say that Frazier has the better chance of sticking at shortstop from a defensive standpoint, but Jones has the chance to be the more valuable shortstop due to his offense and power. Those two things are showing up on the stat sheet, but the key thing is his work learning the position. We’ll have to see where the Pirates decide to have him work on his defensive skills.