We all know the story go Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde right? If not, long story short, it was a single person with two completely different sides. Why is this relevant? The Indians have their own version of this in third base prospect in Nolan Jones.
At the high school level, Jones played for Holy Ghost Preparatory school in Philadelphia, PA. He was their power hitting short stop (and hit 90 MPH on the mound), said to have an above average glove and the mentality and maturity ready for professional ball. Jones was expected to go in the first round, but also had a full scholarship to play baseball for the University of Virginia as an option. He went in the second round, 55th overall, to the Cleveland Indians with a $2.25 million dollar signing bonus.
Jones showed two sides of himself after being moved from rookie to single A, two very different extremes. In rookie ball he was the well rounded third baseman, and then he left Arizona for Mahoning Valley. At that point, his bat still fit the bill that was expected, if not better, hitting with a lot of power from the left side of the plate, with a clean, short swing. His glove on the other hand, took a dive south to the point of reaching below a .840 fielding percentage. Normally, most stat heads would say you cant judge a glove on a FLD%, but being that’s the lowest I’ve seen in the minors and it’s backed with 32 errors in 81 games. It’s a safe bet stating his defense isn’t great.
The bigger picture of his bat plays the part of why he’s still ranked as high as he is, the fifth ranked prospect in the Indians farm system in BurningRiverBaseball’s 2017 Prospect Rankings. He has good bat speed for someone at his age, and has a great eye for his pitch. His walk rate stayed about the same between 2016 and 17 (1% difference), increased his slash, and started pulling the ball a lot more. Its no surprise Jones has taken to the lefty batter’s box so well, and I would give him at least another year to two before he started to level out, probably around AA. Being that he’s still young, he has a lot of time to continue harnessing what works and eliminating what doesn’t against a wide variety of pitchers and situations.
Teetering on the other end of the spectrum, he’s been at best trying to keep his head above water at third base since the Indians had moved him there in rookie ball. I’ve seen him call for balls that aren’t his only to miss them completely, overthink a routine play and let a ball drop on the infield inches from his glove. The hot corner might have worked for him in high school and I have no double his strong work ethic and competitive drive won’t play a factor in small bits of brilliance now and then, but it hasn’t worked yet in pro ball. I’m not saying this to degrade him or what he can do on the field by any means, I believe he has it in him to find what works and he’s with a great organizations to help him do so, this is just the first few steps in doing it.
Who knows? Maybe in a year or two, the 6’4″ IF will shock everyone who’s seen him play third and come out like nothing we’ve seen before, and I welcome that. Jones has it in there somewhere that he can succeed on the left side of the infield, and I’m sure there are ways of getting it back. Realistically though, being that he’s only 19, exploring the options his talents can give wouldn’t be a horrible idea. He has the power of a first baseman, and the speed of a corner outfielder, but with what I’ve seen from him tracking balls, I would expect to see him tested at first in the near future and see how that goes.
Knowing the Indians and how highly that put their future bats, they will find a place for him that will work that gets him as much everyday work in as possible. Being that he’s a huge bat, there is a strong chance they could promote him to Lake County in 2018. Especially if there is a chance they could be on the cusp of figuring out his defensive blunder in 2017 and put him on track pulling his two opposite halves together into a single cohesive player.