JaCoby Jones: A Power Hitting Shortstop Prospect?

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.

Tim Williams

Author: 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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  • deacs

    Any chance, any chance at all we get a player comparison? I promise if you say JJ Hardy I won’t write you back with a “So he’s a .260 hitter?!”

    • jalcorn427

      Howabout Asdrubal Cabrera (or a more athletic Jhonny Peralta)? The only similarity with Hardy would be the power and being white. Hardy never K’d or ran much and is a plus defender.

    • R Edwards

      JaCoby is a lot faster and more athletic than Hardy – although I can see the comparison as far as power potential. If Jacoby ends up playing SS at a similar level as Hardy has in the majors, we should all consider ourselves fortunate. Hardy is a very good shortstop, with power.

      Size wise, I can see the comparison to Jordy Mercer. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a better player comparison for Jones. How about Brandon Crawford of the Giants? Again, another big shortstop with some pop.

      • jalcorn427

        Again, Crawford is a wiz with the glove, I don’t think Jones projects to be that good defensively.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/ Tim Williams

      I don’t do player comps in part because I don’t even think of players in terms of who they could compare to. It would probably be too early to do a comp for Jones, since it’s too early to tell how he could do defensively at shortstop.

  • ElGaupo77

    Max Moroff is more of a prospect than Frazier. Frazier in an org guy.

    • deacs

      What does Moroff bring to the table that Frazier doesn’t? They seem pretty similar. Just curious as I’ve never seen either play.

      • jalcorn427

        Moroff has much more doubles power, walks more, and is a better hitter all around, he is also a year younger at the same level. That said Frazier does K less and is clearly their choice at SS, Moroff has only 5 games at short this year.

        • jalcorn427

          Moroff also switch hits.

        • deacs

          Can you think of an example where someone moved from 2B to SS? Could Moroff ever move back there?

          • jalcorn427

            Jordy Mercer comes to mind as he didn’t play a ton of SS in 2010 at AA because Chase D’arnaud was there.

            • deacs

              I can’t speak to his fielding percentage compared to the rest of the league but Mercer passes the eye test for me. He’s got a good arm and decent range. He’s gotten better and is a decent hitter. Ever since they sat him something clicked.

              • jalcorn427

                Fielding percentage is largely meaningless anyway. The advanced stats say he’s maybe a hair below average in the field, I’ll take that with his bat. I like Jordy as a league average player (1.5-2WAR).

                • deacs

                  Speaking of league average – what the hell is a league average first baseman and how do we get one?

                  • jalcorn427

                    The NL average 1B right now has this line -
                    .260 avg
                    .334 obp
                    .437 slg
                    .337 wOBA
                    115 wRC+

                    Guys around wRC+ of 115 are AGonz and Brandon Belt.

                    The pirates have gotten this line-
                    Too low avg and slg and thus 10% worse than league average offense.
                    .239
                    .329
                    .386 .319 104

          • formerdraftpick

            Maybe Erich Weiss at short? A future utility guy?

          • formerdraftpick

            Thought of an example of someone who is successfully moving from 2B to SS; Dilson Herrera.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/ Tim Williams

      Frazier is only about a year older than Moroff.

  • leadoff

    We have Hanson making a ton of errors, how much worse can Jones be? I understand Hansons upside but shortstops don’t have to cover the whole field to be good, Heck we use Pedro at SS and actually the whole left side of the field on some of our defenses. I say let JaCoby develop at SS we don’t need him for a couple of years anyway.

    • deacs

      I agree. He’s new to the position anyway. If you have to move him to another, easier position to get his bat on the field (if it plays) so be it. You can make that call in AAA if all goes well. I wonder what was going through Mercer’s mind last night when Pedro gobbled up that ball last night as it was rolling his way speaking of Pedro at SS. He grabbed that ball from Mercer and rolled like he was trying to put out a fire on his jersey.

  • Monsoon Harvard

    Even if he doesn’t stick at shortstop, it would be nice if he remains anywhere in the infield. The Pirates almost NEVER have any power hitting infield prospects. Lets see, in the past 20 years… Pedro, Aramis,….That’s about it.

    • deacs

      Agreed. I feel like the system is just loaded with OF’s and RHP’s with some SS’s and Catcher’s mixed in but mostly the strength is in OF and RHP’s. Any breakout prospects in the IF, regardless of position, would be welcome.

  • piraddict

    Notwithstanding that SS is the higher value added position, wouldn’t 3B be a better fit for Jacoby’s profile?

    • Ben Swogger

      This is my thought as well since 3B will be a big question mark once Pedro leaves. At short the worst case scenario is keeping Jordy Mercer, best case is Alen Hanson develops to his full potential. That’s a good position to be in if you ask me, making third the real position of need.

  • piraddict

    This is only his first full season. After signing last Summer he went to Jamestown and then was injured and missed most of the season. If he has a mid-season promotion to Bradenton he is back on the same type of track as Jordy Mercer. Gerrit Cole and Pedro Alvarez may have started their careers at the High A level but they were high 1st round draft picks who signed late and missed short season ball. Given where Jones was taken in the draft he is not behind schedule. To extend your skepticism broadly it seems that you would think that all college draftees below the 1st round aren’t serious, true prospects.

  • formerdraftpick

    Why couldn’t they do the shortstop shuffle? Move Hanson to Indy, Frazier to Altoona, Jacoby to Bradenton, and let Chris Diaz take over in WV. Even Erich Weiss should get bumped to the next level, or try him out at short? Should Carl Anderson and Taylor Gushue be playing in WV as well? They look out of place there.

  • Timothy Wolfe

    Just play out the season and move Frazier up to AA next year- it’ll be sink or swim for him, If he sinks, and Jones does well in Bradenton, he can take over at short by mid 2015 in Altoona

  • mysonisnamedafterRoberto

    Jones is playing as a 22 year old. If he stays in WV this year and can continue to develop at one level a year, that would put him in Pittsburgh as a 26 year old. With learning a new position and one of the most important defensive positions, he will probably need that. Mercer is a FA in 2019, so he could be the next up, if Hanson can not stick at the SS position. Mercer made his debut at 25, so a year younger. I think the comment by Huntington speaks volumes to a level a year. I think the only that changes that is him. He would have to force the organization’s hand. Similar to Polanco progression through High A and Double A.

    I think you will see the same plan for this year’s first round pick, Connor Joe.