Date of Birth: June 21, 1981
Position: First Baseman/ Outfield
Garrett Jones was originally drafted by the Braves in the 14th round of the 1999 draft, and began his professional career with the Gulf Coast League Braves as an 18-year old first baseman. In 46 games, Jones batted only .241, while striking out more than once per game. He would go on to only smack three home runs, as he was just getting used to professional pitching.
In 2000, Jones would get his first taste of the Appalachian League, though it was his worst season as a pro. He batted below .200, and failed to hit a home run for the only time in his career. The sub-par season would mean a return trip to the Apply League, where he would have a much better season for the Danville Braves.
The 2001 season would be his last season as a member of the Atlanta Braves organization, though he did put up solid numbers. He was released by the Braves in May of 2002, and the Twins quickly picked him up. He would make his Twins debut as a member of the Quad Cities Swing, though his .202 batting average for the Swing would be his second lowest total of his career.
In 2003, Jones would make his Florida State League debut, and would begin to show the power that makes him the best power hitting prospect in the Twins organization. He blasted 18 home runs, in what is historically a pitcher-friendly league, which was two more than his career total at the time. Though he only batted .220, he did drive in 67 runs, while smacking 35 extra-base hits.
The 2004 season would really put Jones on the map, as he put together one of the better power seasons that the New Britain Rock Cats had seen in years. He blasted 30 home runs for the Cats in 122 games, after being called up from Fort Myers. He would go on to drive in 92 runs, by far a career-high, and the 30 home runs would begin a string of 20+ home run season. He also batted .311, the only time in his career that he would bat above .300, and he set a career-high with ten stolen bases.
The 2005 season would bring more power numbers for the young slugger, though it would also be his first season with 100+ strikeouts. He smacked 24 home runs, but his .244 batting average was something that scared Twins brass. He would hit 21 home runs in 2006, but would once again bat below the .250 mark. He did have a successful season in the Arizona Fall League after the 2005 season, but it did not translate into a higher batting average in 2006.
Jones also got some work in the outfield in 2006, playing 23 games away from his first base position.
During the 2007 season, Jones finally made his Major League debut, as he was once again one of the top sluggers in the International League. The sweet-swinging lefty did exactly what the Twins were looking for him to do, cutting down on his strikeouts, while raising his batting average. For the Red Wings, Jones batted .280, while driving in 70 runs in a little over 100 games.
Jones did not hit well for the Twins once promoted, but he did show enough to warrant him getting a nice long look during Spring Training in 2008. He hit two home runs in 31 games, while also collecting two doubles and a triple. He showed the ability to hit for extra bases, and while he still needs to work on his batting eye, he should be able to hit Major League pitching on a regular basis once he gets more time in the Big Leagues.
Batting and Power: Jones has been the top power hitting prospect in the Twins organization for some time now, and he showed why in 2007. Not only did he hit for good power at the Triple-A level once again, but he also flashed some big-time power in his short stay with the Twins. The Twins have been waiting for him to raise his batting average, and he did that with the Red Wings in 2007. Now he just needs to work on working the count more, and once he can cut his strikeouts by about 30 per season, he should be able to hit at least .275 to go along with 20 home run potential.
Baserunning and Speed: Jones is not too slow, but he is also never going to win any stolen base titles. For a first baseman, Jones has shown the ability to steal a base or two in his time with the Twins, and has actually stolen ten bases in one season. He has averaged around six stolen bases per season during his Minor League career, and is usually good for anywhere between five and ten in any given season. He is also a solid base runner, who does not make too many mistakes when he is on the basepaths. When he gets on base, he is definitely not a liability, though he is often pinch-ran for in the later innings when needed.
Defense: Jones is a solid defensive player, and is a guy who can play first base and the corner outfield positions. He does not have great speed, and his arm is a little above average, but he makes all the plays no matter what position he is playing. Jones likely projects as a designated hitter, but could play a utility role if he makes the Big League team out of Spring Training. While he will never win a Gold Glove, he should be able to fill in at a bunch of positions for the Twins in 2008.
ETA. N/A As we projected during the 2006 rankings, Jones made his Major League debut during the 2007 season. While he showed promise at the plate, he did struggle at times with Major League pitching. Still, he is a guy who is on the fringe of making the Twins right out of Spring Training this upcoming season, and should provide the Twins with some pop off the bench if he does. He is a definite upgrade over guys like Lew Ford, and with enough at-bats under his belt, should turn into a good bench guy for the rest of his career.