There was never any doubt about which two prospects would sit at the peak of the Top 20. But there was some question as to which talented Mariners' minor leaguer would take home the honor of being No. 1.
It all begins and ends with the left-handed power bat of Jeff Clement.
Because his offensive skills are highlighted by a quick bat that could produce 30 doubles and 30 homers per season, the only other factors that come into play are also in favor of the M's first rounder from last June.
Clement is probably just as close, or closer than Jones to breaking into the big leagues, and his advanced offensive skills give him a decided advantage over the toolsy Jones.
Though Clement lacks a professional track record, he does have the experience factor in his favor, which lifts some of the risk involved with minor league prospects.
While Jones, 20, has the advantage in speed, defense and throwing arm and is about Clement's equal in hitting for average and the ability to reach base via the walk, he takes a back seat to Clement in the most important tool of all: hitting for power.
Jones' raw physical tools suggest that he could reach the mid-20s in long balls and possibly approach 30 if his development stays in high gear.
But Clement's power game is much more projectable to the big leagues and is a much safer bet to reach his ceiling abilities.
It's a fun debate. The tools guy or the talent with the one plus tool that matters most.
But even though Jones is turning his athletic ability into pure baseball performance at a satisfactory rate, Clement is as close to a sure thing offensively as the M's have had since Alex Rodriguez sped through the system more than 10 years ago.
Hopefully for the Seattle Mariners and their fans, both players maximize their talents and become stalwarts at Safeco Field, joining Felix Hernandez on the next train to glory.
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||No. 2 – Adam Jones, CF
| Ht/Wt: 6-2/190
| Bats/Throws: R/R
| Acquired: Selected in first round of 2003 draft
| Signed By: Mariners' scout Tim Reynolds
Jones took the biggest leap forward of any Mariners prospect, splitting his 2005 season in High-A Inland Empire and Double-A San Antonio. His modest season in Wisconsin in 2004 (.267/.314/.404, 11 HR, 72 RBI) raised questions about his bat, but those were answered last summer when Jones hit .295/.374/.494 with 8 homers in the California League and then put up equally impressive numbers in the Texas League.
For a 20-year-old to hit .298/.365/.461 in his first go-round in Double-A is a notable feat and Jones can build on that as he turns the page toward 2006.
Jones is the best athlete in the system, a value that will prove to have a major impact if his transition to center field is a success.
Playing two premium defensive positions at adequate levels is remarkable and Jones' plus speed, agility and strong throwing arm make him the perfect candidate to successfully make the switch.
For all the flash in Jones' personality, he continues to work hard and develop his game around the physical tools he possesses. The 20-year-old has the ability to stand out in many aspects of the game, including defense, hitting for power and leadership.
His instincts in center field are more than acceptable and he's still a capable shortstop.
Without any physical shortcomings, Jones has room for improvement with his overall game - much of which will come with more experience. The right-handed hitting San Diego native tends to get overanxious on breaking balls and needs to continue to cut down on the strikeouts.
Defensively, his limited time in center field has revealed that problems in judging balls hit beyond his positioning and sometimes he gets late jumps on routine flies.
Tools: Scouting Profile
Hitting for Average: 55+
Jones' biggest improvements last season came in the form of better plate discipline and improved reactions on curve balls and sliders. With continued development in both areas Jones should have no trouble hitting .275 or better in the big leagues. He'll need to slice into his strikeout totals to hit any closer to .300, but the ability is there for such progress.
Hitting for Power: 55+
Jones has the strength and bat speed to reach the 30-home run plateau, but his pitch recognition and strike zone judgment have some catching up to do. At his current rate of development, he's likely to land in the 20-homer range.
"Some compare him to Mike Cameron," said an AL scout. "But I think he's more like Torii Hunter, but he's better at the same stage than either hitter. He should reach that 20-25 area in long balls, and his speed could get him to 35 doubles or more."
Jones would still be playing shortstop if not for the glove skills of one Yuniesky Betancourt. Jones has every tool to make the change to center field a great success. His natural talents will allow him to become an above average glove, wherever he ends up playing. But his work ethic and dedication may vault him into the Cameron-Hunter range.
"He was okay out there," said the scout of Jones' time in the Arizona Fall League where he played center field exclusively. "I didn't see anything glaring that would make me worry. He'll need to play a lot out there to get comfortable, but when he does I think he'll be pretty solid. Maybe not Mike Cameron-like, but maybe (Carlos) Beltran."
Jones' arm strength alone is a 70 or better on the 20-80 scouting scale, but in center field he'll face a whole new set of throws. He let a few tosses sail in the AFL and will need to work on his footwork.
As a shortstop, Jones could make up for fielding mistakes with a 95-mph fastball to help get the out. The former prep pitcher has plenty of arm to succeed anywhere on the field.
Jones has plus speed but is still learning how to use it. After stealing just eight bases in '04, Jones swiped 13 last season. He was caught nine times, however, and must get better at reading the pitcher's delivery in order to become a major threat.
He runs well out of his starting point in center field and when he learns to track better he'll run down just about anything.
If not for the position change, Jones might be the starting shortstop in Triple-A Tacoma this season. Instead, he'll head bak to San Antonio to work on his new defensive position while attempting to maintain his offensive output.
He could see Tacoma by the end of the year, but he'll need to prove that he's ready for the jump both at the plate and in the field.
It's still early to project Jones' future, but last year he began to match baseball talent with his natural gifts – a great sign for the Seattle Mariners. Adam Jones has all-star ability and is certain to be a regular in as little as two years.
2006 Projection: .282/.352/.453, 17 HR, 74 RBI, 14 SB, 49 BB, 107 SO
MLB ETA: 2007
MLB COMP: Torii Hunter (MIN), Craig Monroe (DET)
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||No. 1 – Jeff Clement, C
| Ht/Wt: 6-1/215
| Bats/Throws: L/R
| Acquired: Selected in first round of 2005 draft
| Signed By: Mariners' scouts Greg Whitworth and Phil Pote
Clement was the third overall pick in last June's draft and reported to shortseason Everett upon signing for a $3.4 million bonus. After just a handful of games in the Northwest League to shake off the rust, Clement headed for Class A Wisconsin where he promptly hit .319/.386/.522 with six home runs in 30 games.
The transition to the wood bat appears to be a non-issue, which bodes well for Clement's developmental pace.
Clement's left-handed stroke made him the best power bat in the entire draft and the nations prep record-holder for home runs with 75 fell just eight shy of Mark McGwire's career record at USC
Clement adjusted his approach in 2003, leading to a quicker swing and better plate coverage. His ability to spray line drives to all fields is perhaps his most valuable offensive skill. The 22-year-old is more than capable of going to the opposite field for power and that skills may be what ultimately separates him from the rest of the catchers in minor league baseball.
Clement displayed strong leadership skills in college and his work ethic will serve as an example to his teammates wherever he plays.
After throwing out less than one-third of basestealers last season, Clement has his work cut out for him defensively. Improvement with his footwork are necessary, and he has inconsistencies with his transfer and release.
Offensively, he could use a steadier judgment of the strike zone. At times, he'll get impatient, but generally pitchers will have to throw him strikes.
The 2005 Pac-10 player of the year needs more time working behind the plate than he will offensively, but he's willing to do the work and has the skills to shore up any area in need.
Some scouts think because Clement can have the occasional lapse in plate discipline that he may be limited to hitting in the .260s as a big leaguer. But there's no reason he can't use the two-plus years he'll spend in the minors to correct the problem.
He covers the plate well enough to hit .300, though his swing, dialed up for power, will produce a fairly healthy amount of strikeouts. Clement will, however, draw his share of walks, making him a blue-chip bat, capable of hitting .280 or better.
Clement's prototypical left-handed swing manufactures good backspin and the continued improvement in his overall plate skills could allow him to reach the 30-homer mark.
He consistently hits the ball hard and will be a threat to pepper the Hit-it-Here Cafe at Safeco Field on a regular basis. He's the best left-handed power hitter the organization has had since Ken Griffey, Jr. was traded six years ago and his power should get him selected to more than a few all-star games.
"His first week in Wisconsin notwithstanding, he was in a class of his own there," said a Mariners player development executive. "We were close to sending him there to start, with the idea that he might get a few weeks in the Cal League before the year was up. But he signed late and we played it safe. He's everything we thought he'd be at the plate, though.
"His power potential is why we drafted him. That and he works hard at what he does."
Clement's focus this spring will be more on his defensive technique than his hitting, which seems to come naturally, anyway. His footwork is sloppy at times and he has trouble repeating his motions. He comprehends baseball well, calls a solid game and offers leadership from the catcher's position, a common thread that championship caliber teams often share.
There's enough effort and natural tools to keep Clement behind the plate for the majority of his career.
"I'm not sure there is much to worry about," said an American League farm director. "When I saw him in Arizona (Fall League) he just seemed uncoached. College coaches have so much less time to fix things and more players to handle, that he probably just didn't get the instruction he needed in quanitity.
"The Mariners have one of the best in the business at teaching that position – Clement will stay a catcher."
Arm strength is not much of a problem for Clement, but his release-point and transfer need work in order to cut down on the precious time he gives away to basestealers as he springs from his crouch and gets off the throw.
His accuracy suffers some as well, but he has enough time to work out the rough spots in his defensive game before the M's send for him.
Clement, like most catchers, has below-average speed and is not a threat on the bases. He runs the bases intelligently, but without much aggression.
Clement is the future catcher for the Seattle Mariners, despite the recent signing of Kenji Johjima to a three-year pact.
A perfect fit for the Safe, Clement's offensive prowess may punch his ticket to the bigs the second his defense has reached major-league average levels.
He'll begin his trek to stardom with the Inland Empire 66ers of the California League with a chance to see Double-A San Antonio before the year is out. He should push for the big leagues sometime in 2008, with a possible September call-up before that.
Once he drops anchor in the majors he'll hit in the middle of the Mariners' batting order for many years to come.