“I was actually stretching on the field about five minutes before a game when they called me into the manager’s office and said I was traded,” JaCoby Jones told us. “I had never been traded before, so I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know what to do. I knew some guys from the Tigers when I came to Erie but when I got there, the first couple of days were kind of weird, being on a different team. I had built relationships with the guys (in the Pirates system) over the past three years so it was kind of weird but after a few days I felt fine, I was playing ball just with a different team, so it was whatever. Looking back, I feel like the situation was good and obviously the Tigers wanted me so getting traded straight up for (Joakim) Soria was good for me, it all worked out.”
At the time, the 23-year old Jones was rated as a top-ten prospect in the Pittsburgh organization and quickly became a household name in the Tigers’ farm system as well. Following the trade, Jones went on to hit six home runs and 20 RBI in 137 at-bats in Double-A Erie in 2015 before following that up with a blistering start to the 2016 campaign as well between Erie and Triple-A Toledo.
On August 30th, 2016, Jones received a phone call from Mud Hens manager Lloyd McClendon informing him that he’d be making his Major League debut the following night, which Jones still calls the best phone call of his life. Jones would go 6-for-28 with the Tigers in the final month of 2016 and had to reprove himself in Spring training during a lengthy centerfield position battle. Jones hit .310 this spring which landed him an Opening Day roster spot in Detroit, something that Jones didn’t take for granted.
“Anytime you can be in a clubhouse with Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, (Justin) Verlander, (Justin) Upton, Victor (Martinez) and all those guys, it’s amazing. Those guys are all pretty much superstars and have been playing the game for ten-plus years in the big leagues. Miggy is obviously the greatest hitter in the world and just watching those guys’ routines and being around them helped me a lot when I was up there last year and in Spring training, just to see how they go about their business every day.”
However, after going just 7-for-47 to begin the 2017 season and suffering a lacerated lip after being hit by a pitch, Jones was placed on the disabled list and eventually optioned back to Triple-A Toledo. Once healthy, he once again continued to show progression and in turn, spent his 25th birthday in the Glass City on May 10. At the age of 25, the Oklahoma native has zero complaints about where he is right now in his career.
“I feel pretty good right now,” Jones commented on his career at age 25, “I made my debut last year and broke in with the team this spring. Obviously, I was hit in the face and struggled a little bit but I feel good in my career, my body feels good and I’ve had some success. Sure, I’ve had some ups and downs but it’s been good so far and we’ll see from here.”
Sure enough, on the morning of May 27th, the Tigers once again came calling for Jones after placing Ian Kinsler on the 10-Day disabled list. Jones will look to win back the centerfield job he won when spring camp broke, which recently has been held down by Tyler Collins and Andrew Romine. Despite coming up as a potential shortstop or third baseman, Jones says he is happy to be in centerfield and is excited about playing there in the future.
“I mean wherever I can play in the big leagues (is where I want to be), but right now the Tigers want me in center and I love playing centerfield so it’s all good.”
As he continues to receive further repetitions in the MLB, Jones is trying to make his own name as he keeps a careful eye on some of the players he looks up to.
“I don’t really model my game after anyone but I mean ‘Miggy’, I kind of look at him when he swings and want to incorporate some of his stuff,” Jones said. “Defensively, probably Adam Jones, he’s one of the great centerfielders and is probably one of my favorite players. Other than those two, I don’t model my game after anyone really.”
While Detroit may become Jones’ home for a while, he says he enjoyed playing in Toledo and it’s a good atmosphere for minor league baseball.
“Toledo is fun, I’ve always had a good time playing here. The field is nice, fans are good, and just being around and going to different cities is cool. Obviously, you want to be in the big leagues but we can’t make that decision, so we just do what we can down here and Toledo is a good place to play. It has a lot of history, so it’s fun.”
Moving forward, Mud Hens manager Mike Rojas expects big things from Jones as long as he continues to get the at-bats and development he needs.
“He just needs to continue to play every day and continue to cut down the swings and misses, which he has,” Rojas stated on Jones, “He’s still swinging and missing but not nearly as much as he was when he first got down here and defensively, he’s solid.”
Only time will tell what the future holds for the Tigers’ No. 5 prospect as he enters his third stint in the MLB.