7. Nolan Jones – Third Baseman
Born: 05/07/1998 – Height: 6’4” – Weight: 185 – Bats: Left – Throws: Right
Facts & Info: Jones was selected by the Indians in the 2nd round of the 2016 Draft out of Holy Ghost Prep High School (PA). He had a commitment to attend and play baseball for the University of Virginia, but the Indians pulled him away by signing him to a $2.25 million signing bonus. As a high school senior last season he posted a .636 average (28-for-44) with five home runs, 24 RBI, 26 runs scored, 24 walks and just 3 strikeouts in 19 games - despite missing the start of the season due to a back injury. He led his high school to back-to-back PIAA District 1 AAA postseason appearances where they won the title in 2015 and advanced to the semifinals in 2016. He was also named a 2016 Rawlings-Perfect Game 1st Team All-American.
Offense: Jones brings a lot of upside offensively and his power potential is a nice addition to an organization in need of it. The Indians believe he will hit for plus power in the future because he shows some excellent raw power along with some very good bat speed and just continues to get bigger and bigger and add strength and size to his frame. He also has the potential for a plus hit tool as he has a smooth swing that he repeats well and works to the middle of the field for a high contact rate. His stance is spread open with a simple load to contact where he is quick and direct to the ball and shows some good hand quickness to get the barrel to the ball and make consistent, hard contact. He is an advanced hitter with the makings of a good approach where he controls the zone very well for his age. He doesn’t expand the zone very much, has a good understanding of it and has a good plan when he steps into the box.
Defense: Jones was a shortstop in high school but Indians immediately moved him to third base after drafting him because of his long, lean frame that has a lot of projection physically where he just continues to get bigger at a very fast rate. He is a legit third base prospect who is a solid fielder now and has a chance to be a plus defender as he gains comfort at the position and picks up some of the nuances there as well. He is very smooth with some good fielding actions, good hands and shows some quick footwork, and features a plus throwing arm with a quick release and some very good accuracy. He is a very good athlete and has the athleticism where he could move around the diamond some and play other infield positions and even the corner outfield if the Indians wish to add more versatility to his game down the road.
Speed & Intangibles: Jones is a solid average runner and good baserunner, though has slowed down a little as he has gotten bigger and added more good weight to his frame. He just continues to grow and is a former hockey player who really dove into a weightlifting program last year where he ended up gaining over 25 pounds of strength from the beginning of the summer in 2015 to the time the Indians drafted him a year later. The Indians have really concentrated on athletes with plus makeup in recent years and he is a continuation of that as the makeup is as good as it gets. The Indians really spent a lot of time with him and got to know him very well during the scouting process, and were just blown away by his work ethic and advanced maturity.
Focus: The Indians are mostly focused on Jones building a foundation where he establishes his routines so he is prepared to play every day at the professional level. He needs to learn how to take care of his body, prepare himself for games each day and work on his strength and conditioning so that he can be consistent day in and day out and have the strength to handle the rigors of a long season. The Indians believe that his power may take some time to show and may be a gradual process of unveiling his full potential with the bat. He has already added a ton of weight strength-wise, so as he continues to add more strength there is going to be more power in the bat to come which could allow for his above average raw power to show more consistently. Probably his biggest adjustment will be at third base just learning to have a better understanding coming in on balls, developing a better feel for the position and just gaining more comfort and confidence as a defender there to allow his plus defensive skills to show more naturally.
Future: The Indians got what a lot of people deemed was an excellent value with the selection of Jones in the second round of last year’s draft – netting a player who had top 20 talent and a clear first round talent in the process. The upside is legit and everything is there for him to emerge as one of the game’s next crop of up-and-coming prospects this season. Even though there were a lot of strikeouts, he had a solid pro debut last season and really flashed some impact potential with the bat and really made some big strides at third base. He went to Instructional League in the fall to continue his work and suffered a knee injury which sidelined him and put him on crutches, though it was not expected to be a serious injury. The Indians will take it slow with him at the outset of the season by starting him in extended spring training to ensure his health and also to foster his development to continue to build his foundation and fine tune his transition to third base before going to Short-A Mahoning Valley when their season begins in June. With a strong showing there, it is possible he could find his way to Low-A Lake County the last few weeks of the season to get a short taste of the full season level before starting there next season.
Ranking History: Unranked