Position: Catcher Height: 6-0 Weight: 190
Born: 8/29/1985 Bats: Right Throws: Right
Newton joins the Tigers organization as a 6th round draft choice out of Western Kentucky. Jordan joined the Hilltoppers after a standout prep career that included a laundry list of accolades, including All-District ('01, '02, '03), All-Area and All-State ('02 and '03), and he was named the Area Player of the Year as a senior in 2003. After a senior season that saw him hit a whopping .455 with nine homeruns and 30 stolen bases, Newton was drafted by the New York Mets in the 31st round of the '03 draft. He was also heavily recruited as a strong safety, by several major college football programs.
While at Western Kentucky, he finished his three-year career with a .326/.445/.601 line. As a freshman, Newton was named to the Sun Belt Conference All-Tournament Team after hitting .522 in tournament play. Newton continued his strong play as a sophomore, pacing the Hilltoppers with 13 homeruns, and finished in the top five on the team in average, doubles, triples, and RBI. During his final campaign at WKU, Jordan raked on the field, and in turn raked in the awards at season's end. After being named a Collegiate Baseball Preseason 3rd Team All-American, he finished the season as a 2nd Team All-Sun Belt Conference, and as a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award as the nation's top catcher.
Newton made his professional debut for the Oneonta Tigers in June, and struggled through the adjustment to pro ball, mustering only a .179/.289/.268 line, and struggling behind the plate as well.
Newton is an exceptional athlete and a physical specimen. When not catching for the Hilltoppers, Newton often played centerfield, flashing his above average speed and outfield instincts. For a catcher, Newton is exceptionally quick, having been timed as high as 6.75 second in the 60-yard dash. Jordan's defense behind the plate needs work, but he has the makings of an average defender. His struggles receiving the ball are masked by a very strong and accurate arm, and he must continue to improve his game calling capabilities.
Offensively, Newton's potential is very significant. He has a short, quick stroke that sprays line drives to all parts of the field. He typically uses all fields well, and understands the strike zone. As his body continues to mature, he projects to add more homerun power, and should ultimately be able to hit for a reasonable average. When things are clicking for Newton, his offensive potential has drawn comparisons from Craig Biggio to Marcus Giles, and if his power develops, he could surpass those projections.
In spite of all those glowing reviews, Newton's makeup may be his biggest stumbling block as a pro. He is a strong worker, but is often considered distant or aloof by teammates. He was dismissed from fall practice in 2005, and was suspended for a weekend series during his junior campaign at WKU, for missing a weightlifting session.
He'll need to straighten these relatively minor character flaws out, particularly if he's going to remain behind the plate, and be expected to lead a pitching staff.
In the end, Newton's athleticism and defensive struggles behind the plate probably mean a move to the outfield sooner rather than later. His bat should play at any outfield position, and his speed should allow him to cover plenty of ground if asked to play center.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% SS-A
Newton is an aggressive player, but has managed to avoid injuries to this point in his career. Expect him to endure constant nicks and bruises from catching and his all-or-nothing style of play, but don't expect him to miss many games.
Even with his awful showing in the NYPL, Newton should head north in a position to get plenty of at-bats with the West Michigan Whitecaps. With the glut of catchers in the lower rungs of the system, Newton's move to the outfield could come as soon as this spring. If not, he'll split time with James Skelton behind the dish. Newton's bat must come alive and he will have to put any character concerns to rest immediately if he is to progress on schedule. He has the potential to be an impact player, but he carries significant risk as well. Expect Newton to perform at a higher level in 2007, and it is not entirely unreasonable to think he could see Lakeland late in the year.
Mark Anderson covers the Tigers' minor league system and all of minor league baseball for TigsTown.com. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.