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Detroit Tigers 40-Man Roster Preview: JaCoby Jones

DETROIT, MI - JULY 03: JaCoby Jones #21 of the Detroit Tigers looks on during the Detroit Tigers Summer Workouts at Comerica Park on July 3, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - JULY 03: JaCoby Jones #21 of the Detroit Tigers looks on during the Detroit Tigers Summer Workouts at Comerica Park on July 3, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
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One of two named starters for the Detroit Tigers outfield in 2020, JaCoby Jones reworked swing showed flashes of a regular contributor.

The 2019 Detroit Tigers season was a struggle to watch. We all looked for positives about the season and one positive that stood out was the play of outfielder JaCoby Jones. With a reworked swing, Jones started strong before a rough month of July in which he hit .151 in 13 games. In August, the bat started to heat up again before he was hit by a pitch by Royals pitcher Jorge Lopez and was out for the year. It stopped the progress of a new swing adjustment made by Jones.

Forbes.com writer Jules Posner did a great write-up on JaCoby Jones’s progress through his new swing back in June of last year and pointed out his numbers before and after May 1st. The swing suggestion as Jules pointed out came from scout Scott Bream. Let’s take a look at his front foot difference between 2018 and 2019.

2018: Smaller step, getting ready to swing. 

2019: Step is more pronounced, plants down firmer in this June 9th game against the Twins. Looks more balanced. 

The disclaimer I add to this story is the video breakdown is this is just from my amateur perspective but based on the year to year difference, the results showed across the board from an offensive standpoint.

  • Barrel% went up from 5.9 to 10.7
  • Exit velocity went up from 88.0 to 91.3
  • Launch angle went up from 12.0 to 13.7
  • After being in the bottom four in WOBA in 2018 with .274 average, he improved to .312, just below the league average of .320 per Fangraphs.
  • Walk rate went up from 5.1 to 8.1
  • ISO numbers via Fangraphs. .156 in 2018 and .195 in 2019.

The strikeout rate was at 28% which is a slight decrease from 2018 but keep in mind, due to the injury, he did play in 88 games in 2019 versus 129 in 2018 but you get my point. After May 1st until his injury, he hit .235/.310/.430 with an OPS of .740 and hit 11 home runs, 12 doubles, and three triples. Offensively, he was

Did Jones show any type of improvement against left-handed pitching, an Achilles heel for JaCoby?

  • 2017 41 plate appearances .158 with 2 home runs
  • 2018 120 plate appearances .194 with 1 home run
  • 2019 66 plate appearances .200 with 1 home run

He still struggles against left-handed pitching, no doubt about that but what was strange was the defensive numbers drop-off. He went from 10.4 fWAR defensively in 2018 to -11.3 in 2019 with just one assist and four errors in his time in centerfield in 2019.

Short Season Detroit Tigers 2020 Projection for JaCoby Jones.

According to Fangraphs ZiPS projection, his slash line would look like .218/.284/.361 with BB% of 6,8 and a K rate of 30.9%. The numbers in his improvement show that he has the ability to a 2.0 WAR player, which put him as an average major leaguer. Once his wrist was healed, he went back to work in the off-season to strengthen his legs and core, per his quote in this MLive.com piece back in February. 

“I’ve been strengthening my body, mainly my legs and core. I know in the past I’ve had some issues with my hamstring every now and then. I remember early in my career, I didn’t really do much of maintenance stuff and taking care of my body the way I should have. Now that I’m getting a little older, I’m doing things that I didn’t realize that when I first started. Playing the outfield every day at Comerica Park is a grind. Coming into this offseason, I decided I was going to be dedicated to making sure my legs are prepared.”

JaCoby Jones will be one to watch this year as the Detroit Tigers continue to figure out their outfield long term. Do you remember any of the Tigers’ outfielders in the 2000-2004 period that stood out at Comerica that made plays like JaCoby Jones? No? I didn’t think so. The reason why I throw that out there is, for now, you have to like the upside Jones has shown in small sample sizes and if he can show this season that he can hit on a regular, the rebuild becomes a little less painful.

For more of our 40-man roster previews, check out the latest on Eric Haase. 

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