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To recap the countdown so far:
We continue the countdown with the number 19 prospect, JaCoby Jones.
19. JaCoby Jones, SS
Most players don’t make the switch to shortstop from another position. Normally a player might start off at shortstop, then move to an easier position when he shows that he can’t handle playing shortstop at a higher level. So the approach that the Pirates took with JaCoby Jones was very unconventional. The Pirates drafted him out of LSU as a center fielder. He was also considered a second baseman and a third baseman. They got him time at shortstop in 2013, then switched him to short full-time in 2014.
Jones has a ton of athleticism, allowing him to make the switch to the more difficult position, despite playing mostly second base and outfield at LSU. The Pirates believe that he has the tools to stick at the shortstop position, and will give him as many opportunities to stay there as possible. The reports on his defense this year were mixed, with some scouts saying he was showing promise and could stick at the position, while others said he’s more likely to move to second base.
The appeal here is having a shortstop with the bat that Jones possesses. He put up outstanding numbers in West Virginia this year, although they do come with a few disclaimers. The biggest one is that he was a college hitter, and should have been playing a level higher than Low-A. His placement in West Virginia was mostly due to the new position. Most 22-year-old players with the numbers Jones put up in Low-A ended up as utility players in the majors, or worse, and didn’t carry the numbers to the upper levels. What also hurts Jones is his large strikeout total, which shouldn’t be happening to a college hitter at this level.
Jones is a guy to dream on. If he can stick at shortstop, then he could provide power and speed from the position. He shouldn’t be viewed as a starting option until he proves he can handle the position defensively, and until he puts up these numbers in Double-A or higher. A conservative outcome for him is ending up as a utility player who can play all over the field, or possibly a starting second baseman. There is still room to dream on him exceeding these projections. He should go to Bradenton in 2015, and could move up to Altoona by the end of the season.