M's 2005 Top 50 Prospects: No. 7

This former high school pitcher was clocked in as high as 96 MPH on the mound and is the second of three shortstops in the top 10. Can you name prospect No. 7?

Since the departure of perhaps the best player the franchise has ever run out onto the field, the Mariners have been in search of the next athlete to be the stalwart at the shortstop position for years to come.

Alex Rodriguez was drafted in 1993, spent a full year in the minors in 1994 and part of the 1995 season in Triple-A Tacoma. By that time, it was clear that he was destined for stardom in a Mariners' uniform.

Ten years later, Rodriguez has a long list of Hall of Fame credentials, including a MVP award, 300 home runs by the age of 28, and he has played on a 100-win team that went to the American League Championship Series.

Unfortunately, perhaps for both parties, Rodriguez accomplished all of the above in another uniform. After AROD left via free agency following the 2000 season, the M's had a void in their system; an athletic shortstop with advanced physical skills.

Three seasons after Rodriguez took the only offer that approached fair-market value, Seattle jumped back on the draft board and selected another shortstop with plus athletic skills.

Morse High School product Adam Jones was the 37th and final selection in the 1st round of the 2003 First Year Player's Draft.

Jones was both a shortstop and a pitcher at Morse High and told the M's and other clubs that he wanted to hit and play shortstop.

The Mariners obliged and gave Jones a $925,000 signing bonus and welcomed the 6-2, 195-pounder to the organization.

Jones put up decent numbers at Peoria in his first 28 games as a pro, and then went 6-for-13 in three games at Everett to end the 2003 season. There were concerns, however, as the 18-year-old produced just seven extra-base hits in 143 plate appearances.

The M's took a small risk coming out of spring training last March and started Jones in the Midwest League with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Jones did not take the step that most would have liked to see him take, hitting just .267 with 11 home runs and 72 RBI.

But considering Jones did not turn 19 until August and the average age of the pitching in the Midwest League is 21, the San Diego native did just fine and his development is more than on track.

Despite putting up a lackluster .404 slugging percentage with 134 strikeouts in 2004, Jones had a solid second year as a pro and is primed for a breakout season at the plate in 2005.

Hitting 11 home runs in the middle of the order in the Midwest League is solid power production for a kid one year removed from high school baseball.

Defensively, Jones has good hands, solid range and his footwork around the bag is improving with each game. Already the possessor of a cannon of a throwing arm, experience is all that is needed to polish off his defensive skills, though he could use a yoga routine to improve his flexibility and remove some of the stiffness he shows in the field. It's a good thing, too, because the Mariners didn't draft him to be the outfielder that a few scouts say he will ultimately have to be in order to reach the big leagues.

To justify the first round draft status that Jones inherited, the offensive numbers must spike next summer as the M's No. 7 prospect begins his third season in the system.

Luckily, Jones has all the physical tools to get the job done.

Welcome to Adobe GoLive 6
InsideThePark Prospect No. 7
Adam Jones SS
Opening Day Age: 19
Height/Weight: 6-2/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: M's 1st round draft pick in 2003

Year

Team

AVG.

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2004

Wisconsin

.267

11

72

76

8

33

124

.314

.404



Strengths:
Jones is an athletic player with the skills to do a little bit of everything. He also expects a lot of himself and that bodes well for his future. Capable of hitting for some power as well as learning to work the count in every at-bat, Jones has all five tools working for him. It's just a matter how his effort level and talent come to meet.

"He is a prototype shortstop these days," said one American League scout. "He is built like you want your shortstop to be built. Athletic, strong and with some offense."

Weaknesses:
Most of the 19-year-old's athletic ability has yet to be tapped into and he tends to stiffen in certain defensive movements. He must work more fluidly with his footwork and relax more at the plate and let his natural physical ability take over.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Hitting for Average: 55
Jones hit .267 in the tough-to-hit-in Midwest League where the cold will swallow .300 averages if you let it do so. With 124 strikeouts in his first full season in pro baseball, Jones needs to show consistent contact and learn to display a more patient approach at the plate. Being more selective will allow him to attack the mistake pitches more often, bettering his extra-base hit totals on his way to vastly improving his batting average.

"He was fighting off a lot of outs," said the scout about Jones' 2004 season with the bat. "He'd either swing early in the count to avoid getting behind, or he'd be forced to swing at the pitcher's best pitch when he had two strikes. When he begins to control the count on his own, better results will follow. But at 18 for much of the year, he did fine. He really pushed through a tough assignment."

Hitting for Power: 60
Jones has the raw power to hit more than 20 home runs but needs to learn how to use his natural abilities more to his advantage. More experience and a better understanding of the strike zone will allow for more aggressive swings, instead of the defensive approach he fell into at times a year ago.

"Though I have read the Reggie Sanders comparisons, I think he has better potential in both the power and average departments," said the scout. "Jones is two years ahead of Sanders' career curve and the extra time will give him a chance to be more complete offensively."



Speed: 65
Jones runs well and could be one who consistently steals 15-20 bases and legs out six or eight triples a year. Lacking experience, he tends to be a little bit tentative on the bases but that will change with playing time and more confidence. He is still learning to read pitchers and should top out in the 20 range once he finds Triple-A in a few seasons.

Glove: 60
Jones has the physical skills to be a solid shortstop with plus range but has areas in which he needs to work on, daily. Playing every day will continue to help him become a more fluid defender, developing better hands and sharpening his footwork. Some scouts see him being a candidate for the outfield, but most believe that in time he will have the necessary skills to pick it at shortstop at the major league level.

"He will only get better with time but he must stay consistent in his work," said the scout. "He has extra years to use for development, a luxury many players don't have."

Arm: 75
Jones, a former high school pitcher clocked in the mid-90s, has an absolute rifle arm that he uses whenever he gets a chance to do so. Its accuracy is better than average and will continue to improve every season.

"If his other four tools matched his arm, we'd be talking about Alex Rodriguez," said an American League Central scout. "His arm is tremendous and is a valuable weapon at his position."



Future:
Jones is slated to start his second full season as a professional with the Inland Empire 66ers. Likely to share time at shortstop with other middle infielders in the organization, Jones could start seeing time at second, third, and possibly the outfield, depending on his performance overall. If his defense shows quick improvements, however, it will be difficult to justify removing the former first round pick from his natural position. Jones has the raw, natural ability to develop into an every day shortstop in the big leagues but is a long way from reaching that level of play.



MLB Clone: Mike Cameron, Alex Cintron

MLB ETA: 2008





Jason A. Churchill can be reached via e-mail at JasonAChurchill@InsidethePark.com



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