Thursday, July 23, 2009

So Who's Garrett Jones?

I mean, aside from "the one ex-Twin I would've been most surprised to be blogging about three months ago"?

Jones was born in the Chicago-area city of Harvey, Illinois, also the hometown of Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau (though I wonder if a small city twenty-five miles from here would be considered "Chicago-area" in 1917). He was drafted by the Braves in the 14th round of the 1999 draft. He's listed at 6'4", 225 pounds. He's played 1,038 minor league games and hit 158 minor league home runs.

And now he's hitting like Babe Ruth. He played in his 17th game of the season on Wednesday, and hit his ninth home run. Through Wednesday, he's hitting .313/.378/.821. If he had started the Pirates' season this way, he'd be on pace for 86 homers and 48 doubles (and, because he plays for the Pirates, only 104 RBI).

He's getting worshipful newspaper columns.

Garrett Jones is, frankly, a minor league slugger, and not a particularly great one. Or that's what he was through July. His career minor league line was .258/.312/.450. He opened some eyes with a nice year split among high-A and double-A as a 23 year old in 2003, thereby earning himself the reputation among the team and media as the secret hidden power in the minors and holding it for the next three years or so. But it wasn't even that nice (.302/.347/.564, 31 HR, which doesn't project well from a 23 year old who spent half that time in high-A), and he went downhill from there, with two straight years of approximately a .300 OBP in triple-A.

His pre-this-month career major league line was .208/.262/.338, with 2 HR in 84 PA for the Twins in 2007. Yet he kept getting referred to as the potential power the Twins sorely needed, which was very successful in drawing the wrath of Gleeman.

This year, Jones was having a solid year with the Pirates' AAA club, but not that solid: .307/.348/.502. That compares pretty well to his .279/.337/.484 line from 2008, and definitely isn't the kind of thing that sends a signal that a 28 year old is about to break out in a big way.

But break out he has, so far. He homered in four straight games (five total), and before that happened he was slugging .613. Right now, it looks an awful lot like they won't be missing whiny Adam LaRoche at all. But...

Jones, 2009: .313/.378/.821, 9 HR (69 PA)
Chris Shelton, first 17 games of 2006: .406/.457/1.000, 9 HR (70 PA)
Chris Shelton, rest of 2006: .246/.316/.356, 6 HR (342 PA)
Chris Shelton, since: .219/.328/.333, 2 HR (126 PA)

It's great that, per the article linked above, John Russell thinks Jones can keep it up, and the columnist thinks that Jones "looks the part." But in the ways that matter, he looks a lot more like Chris Shelton. In fact, he's two years older than Shelton was in 2006, and Shelton's minor league numbers through that time were significantly better (and he's still raking in the minors, by the way, now for the Tacoma Rainiers; he just can't do it in the bigs).

I hope Jones really did just flip a switch and turn into a star. The Pirates need some good news, and he always struck me as a decent guy. But the odds of that happening were really, really low when the Pirates called him up three weeks ago, and as impressive as his first seventeen games have been, not much has changed on that front. He's still just a 28 year old, middling minor league slugger having a really solid few weeks, and it'll take quite a bit more than that to prove otherwise.

Here's hoping he proves otherwise.

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