Power Will Be Key To Nolan Jones' Development
It’s not unusual for a high school draft pick to go through a period of adjustment in his professional debut.
Third baseman Nolan Jones went through that in 2016, the year he was a second-round pick. Then last year at short-season Mahoning Valley he emerged as one of the most intriguing young hitters in the organization.
As a 19-year-old in the New York-Penn League, Jones led the league with a .912 OPS and 43 walks. He hit .317/.430/.482 with four home runs in 62 games.
A high school shortstop out of Bensalem, Pa., Jones moved to third base as a pro. The position change went well for the 6-foot-4, 185-pound lefthanded hitter.
After hitting .257 with nearly 37 percent strikeouts in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2016, Jones in the NYPL performed closer to his reputation as one of the top high school hitters in the 2016 draft.
"Nolan is a big, strong, young player with a blue-collar work ethic,” director of player development James Harris said. "His conversion to third base went well. He got more comfortable at third as the season went on.”
Jones hasn’t hit many home runs in his first two pro seasons, but the Indians feel his power will come. His .317 average last year led all Indians minor leaguers, while he improved his strikeout rate to 23 percent and showed a disciplined hitting approach.
Triston McKenzie Eyes 2020 After Lost Season
McKenzie probably would have made his big league debut when injuries struck the Indians' rotation—had he not been injured himself.
"We are excited about his progress offensively and defensively,” Harris said. "He’s only 19 years old. He made the adjustment . . . that allowed him to compete against advanced pitching in that (New York-Penn) league.”
This year Jones will move to low Class A Lake County of the Midwest League. He won’t turn 20 until May, and the next steps for him developmentally will be showing plus power at the plate and consistent defense at third base, where he was shown a plus arm.
"You could see his confidence grow before your eyes last year,” Harris said. "We look forward to seeing him compete at third at a full-season affiliate.”