by Ray Kuhn
Just a few short years ago Adam Jones was an early round pick. He was never a true first round stud, but he was off the board by the end of the third round and earned $34 of value for his fantasy owners in ’13. It was hard to argue with his dependability as the outfielder was a true compiler across the board.
Over the last two seasons Jones has slipped ($20 in 2015 and $18 in 2016), and that dip is reflected in his current ADP (117.2). That makes him the 26th outfielder coming off the board with an eighth round price tag. While he is not the player he was, is it also possible that he has fallen too far?
In taking a look at his performance over the past five seasons there are two categories that immediately jump off the page; stolen bases and batting average. However I am not concerned about either. Now that is not to mean I don’t want all of the stolen bases and batting average I can get, but at the same time I am aware that Jones is not Mike Trout or Mookie Betts.
Going back to 2012 and 2013, the peak of Jones’ value, he was pretty close to a five category asset. While he was never a true speed threat, in those two seasons, he stole 16 and 14 bases while batting .287 and .285. Over the last three years he has stolen a combined 12 bases, so it is clear that part of his game no longer exists. Also, after batting .269 and .265 in the last two seasons it appears that he will no longer be a batting average asset, though he is also not a liability.
What is interesting is that there hasn’t been a true decline to Jones’ metrics to explain the 22 point dip in batting average from 2012’s peak of .287. His contact rate last season of 81%, just above league average, is the same as it was in 2012 while his walk rate improved from 5% to 6%. That change is minor as walking is not a major part of Jones’ game. During this stretch he has seen his hit rate fall from 31% to 28%, but his corresponding decrease in speed could be playing a factor. His line drive rate is also down to 17%, and that rate has held steady over the past three years. The line drives Jones was previously hitting turned into fly balls, and last season he saw another 3% dip to his ground ball rate that led to a 41% fly ball rate.
Perhaps most troubling if you are advocating for Jones, which is what I’m doing, is that his Hard Contact Rate was 108 last season compared to 125 in 2012. We have already acknowledged that he is not the player he once was, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t valuable. While we aren’t expecting any stolen bases, and Jones is now a .265-.270 hitter, his other stats appear to be relatively unchanged. That, along with his predictability, is where his value lies.
When it comes to home runs Jones has been consistent over the past five years, with between 27 and 32 times each season with the low number coming in 2015. That was the one season in which he had less than 619 at bats, 546, so he also has managed to stay on the field.
He has seen his Power Index drop from 136 to 92, but his expected power has remained more consistent ranging from 126 in 2013 to 110 last season. Partly thanks to Camden Yards’ favorable conditions, his production has remained relatively unchanged. Baltimore also provides Jones with lineup protection so RBI and runs scored opportunities will be plentiful.
There are going to be outfield options with a lot more flash, but he has proved to be a very steady performer. It’s hard to argue with a .265 batting average, 25-30 home runs and 85-90 RBI as your baseline with the potential for slight upside.
Source – Baseball HQ
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