Adam Jones to the Majors

Dave · July 12, 2006 at 1:06 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Ladies and Gentleman, your new starting centerfielder, Adam Jones.

The Mariners have been hyper-aggressive with promoting their prospects this year. There isn’t another club in the majors who is moving their young players through the system as quickly as the Mariners are. This move is a continuation of that philosophy – as soon as a player has shown that he is no longer struggling at a level, he is challenged with a promotion.

Adam Jones, for the last 6 weeks, has shown that he is no longer struggling at Triple-A. His splits by month:

April: .268/.286/.512, 82 AB, 22 H, 3 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 1 BB, 20 K
May: .208/.263/.368, 106 AB, 22 H, 4 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 8 BB, 23 K
June: .342/.405/.482, 114 AB, 39 H, 7 2B, 3 HR, 11 BB, 23 K
July: .308/.419/.692, 26 AB, 8 H, 1 2B, 3 HR, 5 BB, 1 K

The improvement the last six weeks jumps off the page. It’s most obvious in BB/K ratio, but it shows up across the board. He was striking out in nearly out of every four at-bats to start the year but cut that to one in six last month. His one strikeout in 26 at-bats so far in July, while a tiny sample, is pretty amazing, and a pretty blatant display of improvement.

For the last 140 at-bats, Adam Jones has been a monster in Triple-A. If that performance reflects his new true talent level, than he’s ready for the majors, and he could come up and be this year’s Jeff Francoeur.

However, there’s no way to know if that 140 at-bat sample is reflective of his current abilities with the bat. Scouts can help us, we can take some guesses, and we can hope, but in a sample that small, anyone can hit extremely well. Drawing any kind of firm conclusion from 140 at-bats that goes directly counter to the proceding 180 at-bats is unwise.

We can hope that Adam Jones turned a corner at the beginning of June, and this isn’t just a hot streak. Positive scouting reports are certainly encouraging, and the fact that he cleary has significant talent is also in his favor. But no one, not Bill Bavasi, not you or I, actually knows if Adam Jones has permanently implemented the things that have caused his run since June 1st into his repertoire, or if they’re going to dissipate the moment he sees a major league curveball.

From everyone I’ve talked to, Adam Jones has been killing fastballs in Triple-A, but still struggles mightily with anything offspeed. He’s done much better at no longer chasing that pitch, because he’s learning he can wait for something better, but he has not yet learned how to actually hit the pitch with any regularity. If he starts seeing a steady diet of breaking balls in the strike zone, he could be in trouble, because his current approach of crush-fastballs-and-lay-off-breaking-balls is rendered moot.

There’s also the matter of defense. He’s been playing center field for less than a year. While he has all kinds of physical skills, he’s still a raw defender. He still makes poor reads at times, gets bad jumps on balls, and runs inefficient routes to the ball. His athleticism will help him become a good defender in time, but he’s not there yet.

Almost every player with Jones’ skillset who has been called up to the majors has struggled, sometimes for several years. It is rare for a player with Jones’ offensive skillset to come up and dominate immediately. It’s certainly possible, as Jeff Francoeur showed last year, but Francoeur hasn’t been able to sustain his success from last year, and just like ’05 Francoeur is a possibility, so is ’06 Francoeur.

Adam Jones could be the answer in center field. It’s possible. But it’s also quite possible that he spends the first three months of his major league career getting intimidated by Safeco Field, staring at major league breaking balls for strike three, and having his confidence beaten down by an early promotion. The club could have left him in Tacoma, let him continue to learn and develop against Triple-A pitching with little pressure, and evaluated him in a context where he was playing against his peers.

Now? He’s been thrust into the middle of a pennant race and asked to learn to hit major league pitching in one of the toughest major league parks for a right-handed hitter in baseball. The M’s love to challenge their prospects – they just may have challenged Adam Jones too quickly for his sake, and for the team’s sake.

He’s a heck of a talent. But he wouldn’t be the first talent who fell on his face due to being promoted too quickly.


178 Responses to “Adam Jones to the Majors”

  1. Faceplant on July 12th, 2006 9:57 pm

    I admitedly know nothing about “muscular neurology” or the like. I just don’t see a difference in the risk level. The likelyhood that he hurts himself playing 3 games and getting a day off seems like it would be exactly the same as if he plays everyday. But then again, like I said, I really know nothing about the science side of it.

  2. Dave on July 12th, 2006 9:58 pm

    By the way, for a point of reference, here are the debuts of 10 modern era players who, in my estimation, had very similar skillsets to what Adam Jones has now.

    1. Jose Guillen, age 21, .267/.300/.412
    2. Ron Gant, age 22, .265/.271/.386
    3. Rondell White, age 21, .260/.321/.411
    4. Jeff Francoeur, age 21, .300/.336/.549
    5. Carl Everett, ages 22/23, .185/.242/.285
    6. Corey Patterson, age 21, .167/.239/.333
    7. Joe Carter, age 23, .176/.176/.235
    8. Eric Davis, age 22, .224/.320/.466 (115 OPS+ – thats 1984)
    9. Ruben Sierra, age 20, .264/.302/.476 (107 OPS+ – 1986)
    10. Andruw Jones, age 19, .217/.265/.443

    That’s actually a better list of performances than I expected. Francoeur, Sierra, and Davis were all contributing to their clubs the day they set foot in the majors. Everett, Carter, Patterson, and Gant were lousy, while White, Guillen, and Andruw Jones were all not awful but not great. You could probably throw Dale Murphy and Ellis Burks into the discussion too. Murphy was pretty blah, while Burks was solid.

    Please keep in mind, however, that these are not the 10 “best comparisons” for Adam Jones career. That list would contain several busted players, I’m sure. This skillset isn’t immune to flaming out and never making it. I picked these guys because they did make it (thus, I remember their names, and they’re easy to look up), and they give us a point of reference for what to expect in the next few months.

    That gives a pretty decent picture of what we can expect – some disaster scenarios, some middling performances, and one very good run by Francoeur last year. There’s basically no chance that he hits .300/.400/.600, or anything like he’s been hitting in Tacoma recently, but the low-end performances are a lot better than I thought they would be going in.

    The guys Jones gets compared to most often, guys like Torii Hunter and Mike Cameron, spent a lot more time working their way up through the minors. At age 20, they aren’t very good comparisons, honestly.

    So, what do I expect from Adam Jones if they let him play regularly the rest of the year? Probably something in the .240/.280/.400 area.

  3. John in L.A. on July 12th, 2006 9:59 pm

    I truly doubt Doyle puts any less strain on anything in Tacoma than he would here… and what I’ve heard from tacoma supports that. I would guess that the stress to make the team and prove you can do it is just as, if not more, pressure than actually being here.

    I can’t find a single good reason that Doyle shouldn’t be up here taking Carl’s place, playing 3 out of 4 as DH.

    Frankly, I see every ball he dives for, every base he takes, every slide he makes in Tacoma as a waste. The guy has done and is doing the work he needs to do – if it keeps him healthy I will be very happy for him and us…. if not, I’m going to resent every at bat he took there instead of here, the same way I resent all the extra time I wish we had gotten Edgar.

    Additionally, there is no reason at all to believe that his health will get any better given more time. Daunte Culpepper is about to come back in less than a year from a series of injuries that make Doyle’s look like a papercut. You never know with bodies.

  4. JMHawkins on July 12th, 2006 10:00 pm

    Dateline Seattle: Mariners trade for Eddie Perez. We asked some fans what they thought:

    Fan1: Cool, this must mean they’re going to trade Everett.
    Fan2: They need him cause Everett can’t hit lefties. Well, he can’t hit righties either, but he really can’t hit lefties.
    Fan3: Great, we trade a good prospect for another guy that’ll just rot on Hargrove’s bench.
    Fan4: When are they going to call up Doyle?

    Dateline Seattle: Mariners announce Roberto Petagine has been DFA’d. We asked some fans what they thought:

    Fan1: Why didn’t they DFA Everett instead?
    Fan2: I hope this means Everett is next.
    Fan3: Sad, but Hargrove never used him right anyway.
    Fan4: When are they going to call up Doyle?

    Dateline Seattle: Mariners announce the call-up of Adam Jones to play CF. We asked some fans what they thought:

    Fan1: If this means they’re going to DFA Everett, then it’s a great move.
    Fan2: I hope this means Everett will be gone next week.
    Fan3: Hargrove will probably screw it up and platoon him with Bloomquist.
    Fan4: When are they going to call up Doyle?

    Dateline Seattle: Mariners announce $1 increase in beer prices. We asked some fans what they thought:

    Fan1: That’s fine, as long as they DFA Everett.
    Fan2: I’d pay $2 more if Everett was the beer vendor instead of the DH.
    Fan3: This sucks – drinking is the only way I can tolerate Hargrove’s managing.
    Fan4: When the bloody hell are they going to call up Doyle?

  5. Faceplant on July 12th, 2006 10:01 pm


    I disagree. Doyle has always been an all or nothing player. He has a reputation for playing balls to the wall even in the minor leagues. I just don’t believe that necessarily would change at the major league level. Most players are going to give their all no matter what level they are at. People say their is no pressure in the minor leagues, but I just don’t buy it. Players want to win no matter what level they are at. They have the pressure of competing with others to earn a shot at the show.

    I just think most players (obviously there are exceptions) are giving 100% no matter what level they are at.

  6. Trev on July 12th, 2006 10:05 pm

    RE #154:

    Lemme guess, Fan4 is DMZ.

  7. Oly Rainiers Fan on July 12th, 2006 10:19 pm

    USSM: where every thread eventually becomes a Doyle thread.

  8. JMHawkins on July 12th, 2006 10:26 pm

    Fan’s 1 through 4 are many of us.

    USSM: where every thread eventually becomes a Promote Doyle, DFA Everett and Fire Hargrove thread.

    Why? Maybe those are the moves that make sense…

  9. Mat on July 12th, 2006 10:32 pm

    Lemme guess, Fan4 is DMZ.

    I disagree. Fan4 never mentions drinking. The DMZ I know would never let the other fans hog all of the drinking comments.

  10. Typical Idiot Fan on July 12th, 2006 10:37 pm

    make sense…

    Does. Not. Compute.

  11. Jim Thomsen on July 12th, 2006 10:45 pm

    #157: I haven’t heard the word Bloomquist hardly at all, other than for the AP excerpt I posted. Usually we get into “mad Willie hate” vs. “a reasonable dissection of Willie’s assets and liabilities.”

  12. gwangung on July 12th, 2006 10:46 pm


    My thoughts that Bavasi wouldn’t have brought up Jones unless he absolutely had to–if he forced his way into the big leagues. Otherwise, he’s learning on the job in the majors, which is no way to start the clock on arbitration. Bringing him up when the team was out of contention doesn’t qualify for that because of that arbitration clock.

    It will be especially stupid if Grover sits Jones or platoons him.

  13. BelaXadux on July 12th, 2006 11:06 pm

    I like that list of skillset comps for Adam Jones, Dave. Ellis Burks or Rondell White, but with significant defensive upside seems a good set to me for Adam. If Adam solidifies his power stroke like his year so far suggests, than more like Carter maybe, a guy who made a significant contribution by smoking every fastball he saw while not doing a whole lot else. Jones’ start at Tacoma this year looked like Corey Patterson from the right side, but Adam’s adjustments in the last few weeks suggest he’s smarter than that, and point higher up the list.

    As far as what we’ll see from Adam in the next few weeks, I’m betting he’s one of those guys who comes up and struggles at first. Jones did that at AA and at AAA so far, so there’s every reason to think he’ll have some tough sleding out of the chute, especially if he’s unable to handle breaking stuff at all as you say. He’s a real good athlete, and should make a major contribution to the club over the next 3-5 years though. Just maybe not quite yet.

  14. BelaXadux on July 12th, 2006 11:13 pm

    John in El Lay: If Doyle was 18 mo.+ out from surgery, I’d agree with you 100%. He’s not, so I don’t. I’ve had my blather on this for now, so I’m out on the issue after this.

  15. Jim Thomsen on July 12th, 2006 11:20 pm

    Ron Gant’s career is fine with me. For about a six-year stretch, he was a pretty good player.

  16. JMHawkins on July 12th, 2006 11:31 pm

    Dave, any insight into who moves off the 40-man to make room? Is Oliveros a sacrificial anode, Everett a DFA (fan1 & fan2: hurrah!), or is there a trade in the works (JoeL for a bag of non-roster prospects)?

  17. mln on July 13th, 2006 12:03 am

    That tidbit about why Ichiro doesn’t want to move to centerfield is interesting.

    So Hargrove and Bavasi must know about Ichiro’s conversation with Bob Melvin about not moving to centerfield in 2004.

    I wonder if they have had similar conversations with Ichiro since then, and if Ichiro is opening to changing his mind.

  18. Oly Rainiers Fan on July 13th, 2006 5:04 am

    Churchill is reporting that Navarro is up to Tacoma to fill Jones’ spot.

    Which means Doyle is, I think, going to see his outfield playing time (and most likely CF) increased by a significant margin as they don’t really have anybody else there to play CF. (Nelson and Dobbs look iffy enough on the corners and Bohn isn’t back from DL yet).

    So if Doyle’s playing time (on the field, not just the plate and basepaths) gets dramatically increased, that may be as much if not more risky to him than a call-up to the big leagues while his muscles are still healing… It’s interesting to ponder anyway.

  19. msb on July 13th, 2006 8:26 am

    #152– and sadly, those potential numbers for Jones would still be an improvement in center….

  20. eponymous coward on July 13th, 2006 10:40 am

    Probably something in the .240/.280/.400 area.

    Reed so far in 2206: .217/.260/.377. If you add 5 singles to Jeremy’s totals, you basically get identical numbers to what Dave’s predicting.

    So…basically, we’re looking at 3 more months of Jeremy Reed in CF. You can survive having one dead weight in your offense, but with C-Rex in the lineup, we run the risk of having a really bad offense if anyone goes into a slump (like 2005 or 2004 when we had massive lineup holes everywhere).

  21. Rick L on July 13th, 2006 10:41 am

    162. Jones won’t be platooned, unless it is with Choo, because he is a right handed batter. This puts Bloomquist, by far our best hitter (for average) (damning by faint praise) against left handed pitching, into the role most USSM people want him to be in, that of a pinch runner and occasionally giving someone a day off. Jones can easily prevent being platooned with Choo by hitting better than Choo against right handed pitchers, which shouldn’t be hard to do.

  22. Brian Rust on July 13th, 2006 11:20 am

    Thanks, Dave, great job letting us in on the Jones promotion. I am excited. Perhaps it’s only my naivete, but count me as quite optimistic and encouraged about this move.

    First of all, Jones’s June-July performance level simply cannot be discounted from a statistical analysis perspective. If we assume his 2006 obp of .332 is his “true” performance, then the probability of drawing his June-July split AT RANDOM is a mere 2%. If a scientist were testing the hypothesis “Jones shows significant improvement in June-July” his answer would be “yes.” The scientist concludes this because the sample size is accounted for: if the same obp was drawn from a sample only half as big, the probability would be 7%, and the scientist would answer “maybe not.”

    I think we agree that the numbers he’s putting up at Tacoma confirm a “skillset” that will carry him to the bigs. In addition, I believe that the demonstrated improvement we’ve seen over this season is consistent with his improvement last year and demonstrates a “mindset” that suits him unusually well for the next challenge. I think he can be the exception to Dave’s conservative approach, and I don’t think it should be a foregone conclusion that more time at AAA is crucial to his development.

    Of course, there’s the question of how his promotion will affect the Mariners’ chances. Some of your readers may turn up their noses at a banner that requires only 85 wins, but this reader thinks it would hang at the Safe just fine. I think the Jones promotion has a fair probability to help their chances a little, a slight probability to help a lot, and a low probability to hurt significantly. The examples Dave lists in #152 seem to fit this probability profile. Plus, in lieu of any cost (in prospects) to future chances, it actually helps by starting Jones’s adjustment now. Sure, if a bona-fide 5- or 10-VORP CFer comes along at little cost, snag him. But I really think Bavasi knows the probability of that is perhaps lowest of all.

  23. DMZ on July 13th, 2006 11:25 am

    First of all, Jones’s June-July performance level simply cannot be discounted from a statistical analysis perspective.

    Like a 25% summer sale or something?

  24. Mike Snow on July 13th, 2006 11:31 am

    Which means Doyle is, I think, going to see his outfield playing time (and most likely CF) increased by a significant margin as they don’t really have anybody else there to play CF.

    Well, they can play Choo in CF, since word is he’s going back down. Dobbs is reportedly being brought up to replace him. Not sure how they get Dobbs on the 40-man, maybe put Morse on the 60-day DL or something.

  25. darrylzero on July 13th, 2006 11:45 am

    Dobbs, for real? How hard is this? Platoon Choo or Snelling with Perez at DH, rotating in LF w/Ibanez to give him some days off against LHP too. What do we need Dobbs for? To fill the all important Bloomquist-backup IFer? Isn’t he left-handed also? Insane.

    Seems to me like if they could just manage to summon the balls to ditch Everett (god it’s getting tiresome saying that), a Choo platoon with Perez at DH full time would be pretty perfect for what the team actually wants. There’s no pressure to spell Ibanez against LHP, which they really don’t want to do anyway, because Choo shouldn’t face major league lefties. They don’t have to worry about “rookie mistakes” by Choo in the field. They can control how much they want Snelling to play and how much they want him to rest either in Tacoma or from the bench, get him ready to be the full-time LFer in 2007.

    It’s too bad that it would be perceived as such a slap in the face to platoon Ibanez with Perez. That would be a deadly DH platoon. If we did that and Snelling was ready to play full time in LF, that’s a team I could be really, really excited about. Of course, without Snelling, it makes more sense to platoon Choo than Ibanez, but we can dream.

  26. Huskermariner on July 13th, 2006 12:43 pm

    Sorry if this already got covered (not enough time to read the whole thread, will do tonight…) but why would Oliveros get optioned back to A ball? Isn’t that a shock to the system – you’re at AA, you get called to the bigs — for one day — then you’re told you’re being demoted to A ball. What gives?

  27. msb on July 13th, 2006 1:01 pm

    might Quiroz (as the 3rd catcher in Tacoma) be going down to AA, so Oliveros gets bumped one back?

  28. Rick L on July 13th, 2006 5:06 pm

    In 171 I meant to say best right-handed hitter. I assume Perez will put the lie to that eventually, but he hasn’t been with us long enough to count.

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