Detroit Tigers: JaCoby Jones Will be a Roster Lock by 2017

Feb 23, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop JaCoby Jones (79) fields a ball during the Detroit Tigers spring training camp at Joker Merchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 23, 2016; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop JaCoby Jones (79) fields a ball during the Detroit Tigers spring training camp at Joker Merchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Tigers sent JaCoby Jones to minor league camp on Monday, but that doesn’t mean he won’t contribute to the team any time soon.

If it weren’t for a 50-game suspension toward the end of last season JaCoby Jones probably would have entered Spring Training as a dark horse to make the Detroit Tigers Opening Day roster. However, the suspension, which will include the first 38 games of 2016, likely removed Jones from consideration.

Despite the fact that he’ll sit out more than a month of the year, Jones came into Spring Training and thrived. The versatile player hit .313 with a .421 OBP and a 1.234 OPS. He also smacked two home runs, scored six runs and drove in four. What’s more, the former Pittsburgh prospect filled in at a number of defensive positions, including center field, shortstop and third base.

On Monday morning, the Tigers announced via Twitter that Jones, along with Tommy Field, Mike Gerber, Jason Krizan and a number of others, have been assigned to minor league camp.

However, based on those numbers, Jones’ athleticism and ability, and the player’s minor league stats, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him on the roster sometime later in the season.

Jones debuted in 2013 after being drafted, and played in his first full season in 2014. With the Pirates’ Single-A affiliate, the slugger collected 128 hits, 21 doubles, three triples, 23 home runs and 70 RBI in 117 games. The utility player also scored 72 runs, swiped 17 bases and posted an overall batting average of .288.

In 2015, the former LSU standout moved up to Advanced Single-A, hitting .253 with 96 hits, 18 doubles, three triples, 10 home runs and 58 RBI. The 23-year-old also added 48 runs scored and 14 stolen bases in 93 games to start the season.

Shortly before his trade to the Detroit Tigers organization, Jones moved up to Double-A. He continued at the level for Detroit, and played a total of 40 games there. In total with Erie and Altoona, the right-handed batter hit .267 (39 hits) with 28 runs scored, seven doubles, two triples, six home runs and 22 RBI. He also continued to tear up the base baths, with 11 stolen bases.

Considering Jones’ past production, both before the season and in Spring Training, he has an excellent chance to crack the Tigers lineup in some fashion later in the year once his suspension has reached a conclusion.

Regardless of personnel, many teams are in need of a boost come July or August. This is why you see so many trades at the deadline. Luckily for the Tigers, the team has a boost waiting in the wings in Jones.

As it stands, some combination of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Bryan Holaday, Mike Aviles, Tyler Collins, Steven Moya, Andrew Romine and Wynton Bernard will likely open the season on the Detroit bench. All but the last two bring some kind of a presence as a pinch-hitting presence off the bench, with Romine and Bernard’s value coming on the base paths or as a defensive replacement. 

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While most of those players have established track records in the big leagues, injuries and inconsistency can come into play. Jones could be the spark plug to revitalize the bench if the unit struggles at any point.

The 23-year-old will obviously have to produce at Triple-A, but given his statistical output so far, that doesn’t seem like too much to ask. Additionally, Jones’ defensive flexibility allows him to fill in most anywhere. As mentioned, he’s already logged time in center field and at shortstop and third base.

If the former Pirate farmhand can make a positive impact this season, he will likely go a long ways towards assuring himself a roster spot for 2017.

Mike Aviles and Cameron Maybin can potentially come off the books, and Andrew Romine will be close to 32 by the time next season rolls around. Jones could essentially take the place of all three, serving as a pinch hitter, a backup infielder as well as a platoon partner for Anthony Gose in center field.

According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Detroit is paying Maybin, Aviles and Romine a combined $8.4 million this season. Having Jones, who has yet to make his Major League debut, replace the three will free up some cash for the Tigers to spend elsewhere.

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In Conclusion

Any way you slice it, JaCoby Jones will be a roster lock for the 2016 season. His suspension was an unfortunate bump in the road, but the player has a chance to be special thanks to his outstanding potential and unique skill set.

He may even be bringing that potential and skill set to Detroit this season.

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