C’mon readers of RotoGraphs, you didn’t really think I was going to let the year end without another piece on Adam Jones from me, did you? I was just waiting for the appropriate time and with the release of Zach Sanders’ Outfielder End of Season Rankings, that time is now. So scroll on down to number six, check out those numbers and $21 value and let’s talk about Baltimore’s number one outfielder.
Indulge me for a second and let me just get this out off the way — I told you so! There was part of me that swore I wouldn’t say it, but I’m human and I’ve realized that, after taking my share of abuse in the comments section over the past two years, I am not above a little self-aggrandizing back-patting and a few nyah, nyah nyah’s.
I wrote a piece back in February telling you that Jones was , in my opinion, a breakout candidate for 2012 and that you should draft him. I believed strongly in my call and when I was met with resistance, I took it a step further, hopped on my soapbox and declared him a 30-30 candidate in my 10 Bold Predictions. In truth, I never really thought he would actually steal 30 bases, let alone even make 30 attempts, but as I said in that comments section, I believed 20 steals was a possibility, but 30 had a much nicer ring to it. Not to mention, I also thought it would elicit a little more backlash which, it did.
Well, we all know what happened next as Jones came out of Spring Training white-hot and by the end of May he was hitting .314 with 16 home runs and eight stolen bases. Sore wrists slowed him in June but he still walked into the All Star Break with 20 home runs and 11 stolen bases. When the season resumed, his power remained muted with just seven home runs through July and August and the work on the bases was almost non-existent as he only stole two more over those two months. But when the calendar flipped to September, Jones turned it back on with another six taters and four more steals, giving him 32 homers on the year with 16 stolen bases. It certainly wasn’t a 30-30 season, but I still give myself a “close enough” on my bold predictions report card as Jones managed career-highs in home runs, doubles, runs scored, stolen bases, batting average, slugging percentage and wOBA. And not that it has anything to do with fantasy, but his 4.6 WAR was also a career-best.
So where did it happen? What did Jones do differently this year to give him such a boost? His strikeout rate, his walk rate, and everything about his batted ball data finished up right around his career averages. There was nothing outlandish about his BABIP and while his LD% was higher than usual and his ground ball rate slightly lower, there was nothing there that said career year in comparison to his previous seasons. He was definitely a little more selective about what he was swinging at, but his contact rate was at its usual level and he still posted a double-digit SwStr%.
Then I looked at his home run chart. Not where he hit them, park-wise, but how far they traveled. Of his 32 home runs, only six were considered “just enough” and not only did he increase his average distance of his home runs over the last three years, but the average speed of the ball off the bat also increased which meant the force with which he was making contact was stronger. With a little more selectivity at the plate and a whole lot more strength, Jones was like the perfect storm in the batter’s box. All of his adjustments and improvements over the years coincided with his enhanced physical development and the results were, well, pretty damn good.
So now what does the future hold for Jones? Entering year-27, will he see continued improvement? Probably not. I see him more on a plateau for another few seasons rather than an upward trajectory, and that’s actually not too bad. If the Orioles get a better table-setter atop their order, perhaps he’ll surpass his RBI totals, but given the level of consistency with which he does everything else, I see him at his pinnacle right now. You’ll still be drafting close to 30 HR and 15 stolen bases next season, but I won’t be standing atop my soapbox again this spring clamoring for you to draft him.
I’ll save that for someone else…
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at email@example.com