By slashing .327/.377/.510 in 49 Grapefruit League at-bats, JaCoby Jones managed to break camp with the Tigers. He even cracked a three-run homer on Opening Day. It was downhill from there for the 25-year-old outfielder, as he was hit in the face a few weeks later, requiring a month's stay on the disabled list. At the time, he was sporting a weak .150/.244/.300 line. Jones came back in late May, only to be sent to Triple-A Toledo 10 days later. Jones continued to struggle, hitting .245/.314/.387 on the farm before injuries and trades in Motown prompted his recall in mid-August. From there, Jones didn't fare much better, slashing .189/.247/.278 with a 40 percent strikeout rate. Jones has tools but has yet to channel them into baseball skills. Detroit is in retooling mode, so they could give Jones another chance. However, it's hard to imagine he can reverse a long history of elevated strikeouts with little plate patience.
Jones is even with or slightly ahead of Victor Reyes in the battle for a reserve outfielder job out of spring training, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports. Jones is slashing .400/.500/.650 this spring with a home run and six RBI, while Reyes is scuffling with a .207/.258/.241 slash line. Working in favor of Reyes is the fact that he's a Rule 5 pick, meaning he has to stay on the 25-man roster all season or else be subjected to waivers and offered back to the Diamondbacks. Jones might force the team's hand if he continues to rake in spring training, though he could start the year at Triple-A Toledo if the Tigers want to find a way to keep Reyes around. Either way, the 25-year-old Jones figures to get extended playing time at the MLB level sometime this season for a rebuilding Detroit team. It helps Jones' cause that he's begun fielding grounders at third base in the event he's needed at the position at some point, according to Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com.
Jones, who hit a three-run homer in Friday's Grapefruit League game against the Mets, is making a good impression on manager Ron Gardenhire, Chris McCosky of The Detroit News reports. After Friday's game, Jones was batting .412/.524/.706 this spring with a home run and six RBI. More importantly, he's cut down on the strikeouts in the early going. If Jones puts the ball in play more consistently, he has the tools to post solid numbers. "He's an exciting player," Gardenhire said. "I think he gets after it. He can play all over, it looks like to me." Jones is competing with the likes of Victor Reyes, Mike Gerber, Jim Adduci and Chad Huffman for a reserve outfielder role to begin the season.
In 19 Grapefruit League plate appearances, Jones has six hits, four walks and just three strikeouts. Last season, Jones posted an atrocious 42.2 percent strikeout rate and 0.14 BB/K ratio. In a small sample size this spring, he's got the strikeout rate down to 15.8 percent and the BB/K ratio is at 1.33. The 25-year-old outfielder has some tools, but he clearly can't do much with them if he's not making contact. If Jones can sustain his progress in this area, he could be in line to improve his stats this season, though he's currently looking more like a reserve player to begin the year, with Mikie Mahtook, Leonys Martin and Nick Castellanos the presumptive starters across the outfield.
Jones is not in the lineup Wednesday against the Royals. Although he's hitting just .156/.229/.266 for the season, Jones has had an even tougher time at the plate lately. He's started five consecutive games and has gone 1-for-16 (.063) with nine strikeouts over that stretch. He'll sit out Wednesday while Andrew Romine starts in center field.
Jones is not in the starting nine against Oakland on Wednesday. Jones remains on the bench for the second straight game as Mikie Mahtook will once again patrol center field during Wednesday's series finale. Since Sept. 6, Jones is batting just .133/.161/.200 with two RBI and 13 strikeouts in 30 at-bats.
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