Seattle Mariners prospect outfielder James Jones is a tall, thin left-handed hitter with an infectious smile and an outgoing personality that can easily make him a fan favorite.
Raised in an apartment complex on the site of what was once Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, Jones is an outstanding athlete with the ability to play several positions well.
Jones threw 80 innings as a pitcher at Telecommunications High School in Brooklyn and suffered a fractured bone in his foot during his senior year.
Jones attended Long Island University at its Brooklyn campus. He hit .364 with 32 RBIs and nine home runs during his junior year. Jones was such a versatile and solid athlete that he played center field in midweek games and Fridays, pitched and batted as a designated hitter during Saturday doubleheaders and played first base on Sundays. Regardless of where he played, Jones showed projectable baseball skills.
The Mariners brought Jones to Seattle and had him work out as an outfielder before selecting him in the fourth round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. Viewed primarily as a relief pitcher before the Draft, with the exception of a couple of games playing first base, Seattle has also used him in all three outfield positions. Jones has not pitched a single inning for the Mariners.
At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Jones has the frame of a first baseman, but he doesn't quite have the consistent power that accompanies that role. However, he certainly has the strength and the loft in his swing to get his share of home runs. With Jones' speed and excellent arm strength, he is very well suited for his current role -- roaming center field with excellent range and quick closing speed on balls hit in the air.
In parts of six Minor League seasons, Jones has a .282 career average. He hit .311 in his rookie year at Class A Short Season Everett in the Northwest League. Jones has since played at every level of the Mariners' farm system, compiling 2,161 plate appearances in 511 games played. Using his gap-hitting ability, he has recorded 99 doubles and 39 triples in the Minors. Reflecting his limited power, Jones has 42 home runs in that span.
It was his performance this past spring that really put Jones on the Mariners' map. He showed an electricity to his game that added a spark from the top of Seattle's lineup. Jones' Spring Training performance included scoring six runs in the 15 games he played. He drove in six runs while hitting .265. Jones' baserunning ability and his strength on defense is what stood out to me when I watched him.
On April 18, Jones was promoted to Seattle and began to be an everyday player on May 10. He has added a dimension of excitement to the top of the Mariners' batting order, and his energy and total involvement in the game have set a tone for the rest of the lineup.
Even though Jones' swing can get a bit long at times, he makes good contact with a direct path to the ball and good hitting mechanics. He is a very tough out -- he knows the strike zone well, shows good plate discipline and is willing to accept a walk. Jones has a bit of work to do recognizing pitches, but that will come with more exposure to the high-quality pitches he is seeing at the big league level.
Jones doesn't have the blazing speed of a prototypical basestealer. However, he does have good baseball instincts and has the first-step quickness in that long, lanky frame to get his share of stolen bases. Jones is a good table-setter in the Mariners' leadoff position.
Defensively, Jones' pitcher's arm being used in the outfield is strong and accurate. He has the arm strength to play right field, but he's a real asset as the take-charge guy in center. Jones will get to most balls hit his way at spacious Safeco Field.
Now 25 years old, Jones is coming into his most productive chronological baseball years. He has the athletic ability to really help Seattle.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.