Scouting Yankee Prospect #33: Ben Jones

There is nothing like the feeling of picking up a potential star in the "late" rounds of the draft. The Yankees picked up Ben Jones in the 14th round of the 2004 draft and it has been said that he is possibly the most intriguing offensive prospect not named Jon Poterson. It's these reason's that he's our Yankees' prospect #33.

Vital Statistics
Name: Ben Jones
Position: 1b
DOB: July 3, 1981
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 195
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Place of Residence: Monroe, Louisiana
How Acquired:The New York Yankees selected Ben Jones in the 14th round (429th Overall) of the 2004 MLB Amateur Draft.

The Yankees went mostly for pitching in the 2004 draft so their one high profile draftee that was a hitter, Jon Poterson, got a lot of attention. But, what about Ben Jones? Many scouts are now coming to realize that Jones may be one of the most intelligent and intriguing draftees of all the Yankee selections. This is not only because he had a very good season in his first professional campaign but also perhaps because they may have gotten a steal considering the type of big time numbers that Jones put up in his college career. Big players in low slots are picked up every year. Just look at Marcus Giles and Roy Oswalt. Maybe calling Jones a future star is getting ahead of ourselves but this first baseman will be one to watch very closely over the next couple of seasons.

Things did not start off with a bang for Ben Jones as he entered college at the University of Louisiana at Monroe as he elected to redshirt his first season there in 2001. However, the Louisiana native certainly had a good record behind him. Jones was a tremendous high school player at Ouachita Christian High School. As a senior there, he swung his way to a lofty .454 batting average while mashing an incredible 11 home runs. Not to mention, Jones could really pitch as well. In his final two seasons at Ouachita Christian, he had a combined pitching record of 20-1, that's right 20-1. Not bad for a guy who was eventually drafted for his big time bat. After his monstrous senior year, Jones was named the District 2-2A MVP and the All-Northeast Player of the Year. Despite a fantastic prep track record, Jones was not highly scouted out of high school by any MLB organizations. However, he certainly had a bright college future ahead of him.

After an outstanding high school career, Ben Jones was signed up by the University of Louisiana at Monroe after being recruited by head coach, Brad Holland. Little did anyone know at the time that, in time, he would become one of the biggest baseball stars the University ever had. As earlier stated, the first baseman was not an immediate impact star in college and sat out his first season. But, he was ready to roll in 2002 and it showed. He started out hot in 2002 and blasted his first long ball on April 2nd. From that point on, it was smooth sailing for the right handed slugger. For his first real season of playing time in college, Jones had an excellent year in 2002. Overall, he batted .309 with 3 home runs and 28 RBI. However, it was only a taste of what was to come in the next two seasons for Ben Jones. 2003 dwarfed 2002 as far as offense is concerned for Jones. He had a huge season as he paced the offense for the Indians. Jones led the team in home runs (9), hits (74), RBI (55) and total bases (114). To add to that, he was also in the top three on the team in other offensive categories such as batting average, slugging percentage, doubles, walks and sacrifice flies. It just goes to show you just how vital he truly was to every aspect of their offense. After a season of that caliber, Jones earned First-Team All-Southland Conference honors. Could the 2004 season be any better for Jones? It turns out, yes, it could. In the season he was drafted, Jones teed off for 14 home runs, which led the team, while compiling a, team second best, .338 batting average. The list goes on. He also led the team in RBI, slugging percentage, hits and total bases. One could say, without exaggeration, that Ben Jones was the heart and soul of University of Louisiana at Monroe Baseball.

Now, after looking at such a staggering resume, it is pretty easy to say that the Yankees may have stolen Ben Jones in the draft this year. That is why many scouts have looked at him as possibly the most intriguing late round draft pick for the Yankees in 2004. And, any worries about a wooden bat hampering his power numbers from college are out the window now. After Jones was signed by the Yankees, he was assigned to the Staten Island Yankees in the short season NY-Penn League. There, he immediately was an impact player for an offense desperate lineup. Perhaps the most important thing though is that his power numbers did not dip whatsoever. He ended up batting .280 with 6 home runs. Sadly, his numbers could have been far better if he wasn't struck down by an injury late in the 2004 season The injury caused him to only compile 150 at bats for the season. Nonetheless, he earned his ticket out of Staten Island and to at least Charleston next season. If that stands to be true, he should certainly have a starting first base job waiting there for him in 2005.

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2004

Staten Island

.280

150

6

6

26

16

0

12

47

.337

.440


* Stats as of 10/1/04

Batting and Power. Still, without an argument, the most intriguing part of Ben Jones' game is his huge power potential. He looks like a player that could hit 25+ home runs annually on the Major League level. Not losing any of his power after switching to the wooden bat is also an outstanding sign for things to come. Things he will need to improve are his walk totals and he will also need to cut back on the strikeouts. Right now, he is pretty much a free swinger as many young hitters are. However, he still does have the ability to hit for an over .300 batting average. His offensive promise is his big ticket to the show.

Base running and Speed. In no way, shape or form is Ben Jones a stolen base threat. He never has been throughout his career. Right now, it doesn't appear that will ever change either. He is an intelligent base runner and his quickness is good around the first bag but his overall speed is below average to average at best.

Defense. Not only is Ben Jones a fantastic hitter, he is very good in the field. He is not very fast, but he has quick reflexes and is still very athletic. He moves well around the bag. Also, his throwing arm is well above average for a first baseman. His pitching days help him out on that one. He is excellent at turning the doubles plays. All around he looks to be a very solid first baseman that has room to get even better.

Projection. It is going to be very difficult to project the ability of Ben Jones until we see him for a full season. However, the impression thus far is that Jones is going to be an effective power hitter throughout his career. Why? If he can make such a smooth adjustment to a wooden bat and not sacrifice his power, the strength and ability to hit home runs will not leave him. But, at this point it is hard to tell if he will be a power hitting reserve player or a starter. But, with his solid defensive skills and ability to also hit for a high average, it appears he could be an MLB starter.

ETA. 2007. In dealing with a prospect in a scenario like Ben Jones, it is a tough one to call. He is already 23 years old and the Yankee organization is likely going to push him hard before he gets too old to be considered a prospect. He will probably start in Charleston next year with the presence of Erold Andrus and John Urick in Tampa. But, by 2006, it seems very likely that he will make his way to AA Trenton, possibly with a brief stop in Tampa. Then, he will probably start the 2007 season in Columbus with a possible late season callup. However, with a player like Jones, any slips could cost him and his career a major blow.


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