Detroit Tigers: Finding a Long-Term Role for JaCoby Jones
Detroit Tigers minor league player JaCoby Jones is off to a stellar start at Double-A this season. What position could he play for the Tigers in the future?
Detroit Tigers prospect JaCoby Jones recently returned to action following a suspension that kept him out of the early part of the season.
Jones was able to play in 16 Spring Training games, but he’s largely been without baseball since the end of last season.
In 19 games since being activated, the 24-year-old has wasted little time in terms of making an impact. Jones is hitting a robust .301 in 85 plate appearances. He’s also stuffed the stat sheet with 20 RBI, 11 runs scored, five doubles, four home run, two triples and two stolen bases. The top prospect has struck out 22 times so far, but he’s also drawn 10 walks.
Additionally, the former Pittsburgh farmhand has played all over the diamond. Jones has logged starts at first base, third base and in center field this season.
More from Motor City Bengals
- Detroit Tigers: Victor Reyes finding ways to get the job done
- The Detroit Tigers must cut their losses and release Jonathan Schoop
- Detroit Tigers: Garrett Hill’s new role and changed delivery are excellent
- Detroit Tigers: Joe Jiménez has rebounded in 2022
- Detroit Tigers: Is it finally time to move the fences in at Comerica Park?
The versatile defender has been one of Detroit’s best prospects since joining the organization in the Joakim Soria deal last July. Considering how he’s performed so far in the minors, the question becomes, where does JaCoby Jones fit with the Tigers long term?
Jones has seen the majority of his playing time in the minors at shortstop. However, defensive wizard Jose Iglesias is entrenched at the position for the long haul. What’s more, Nick Castellanos is similarly set in stone as the team’s third baseman of the next decade.
With the left side of the infield covered, Jones could play on the right side of the infield down the line. He’d be an ideal, long-term replacement for Ian Kinsler from a power standpoint, but defensive ace Dixon Machado may be better suited for the role. Jones could also play first base with Miguel Cabrera transitioning to designated hitter once Victor Martinez retires.
Despite the fits in the infield, the outfield may beckon for Jones. Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez could both potentially leave after the 2017 season, leaving two possible positions for Jones.
The former third-round pick could also slot in as a center fielder until fellow top prospect Derek Hill is ready for the big leagues. Hill profiles as a plus defender with the ability to lead the league in stolen bases.
At the end of the day, Jones’ best fit may be as a Ben Zobrist type player who logs similar at-bats to a starter while playing around the diamond.
Zobrist, who has averaged a 4.5 WAR from 2009 to 2015, has played at least 100 career games at second base and shortstop as well as in right field and left field. The longtime Tampa Bay Ray also has played 34 games in center field, 17 games at first base and eight games at third base.
Keeping Jones in the batting order while moving him around on defense would give the Tigers some significant flexibility when filling out the lineup card on a daily basis. Having a player with his versatility will also allow Detroit to rest players more regularly. Jones’ presence would also make Andrew Romine and Mike Aviles expendable, freeing up more roster spots for Detroit to utilize.
It is entirely possible that JaCoby Jones could be a long-term solution at every position on the diamond except pitcher or catcher for the Detroit Tigers. However, for now, the best fit remains as a Ben-Zobrist like player.