But what was he last season really? If you stop dreaming on the guy's raw talent, what did he really accomplish in 2008?
Well, for one, he was arguably the best defensive outfielder in baseball, perhaps the best fielder of any kind in baseball. There is no denying that, regardless of Gold Glove voting, the Oriole have the best pair of fielders, in center and right, than any team in baseball. It has been years since the Orioles could claim to possess the best of anything but I believe this point if easily defended. Jones led AL centerfielders in RZR. Markakis led full time AL rightfielders and has 17 kills. Case closed.
(Note to O's pitchers: keep the ball in the park and these guys will catch it.)
So if Jones proceeds at a reasonable rate of development for a guy in his early 20's, he'll probably be the next Paul Blair. But I think we're hoping for a little more than that.
The biggest impediment to Jones' development will be his control of the strike zone. Jones is a free swinger.
Quick quiz: what two Oriole outfielders put up these individual seasons?
AVG OBP SLG BB K HR SB R RBI
Player A .276 .314 .443 21 94 16 45 75 53
Player B .270 .311 .400 23 108 9 10 61 57
Pretty similar seasons. Who are these players? I'll give you a minute to think about it...
Ready? Player B is Adam Jones in 2008. Player A is Corey Patterson in 2006.
That'll curb your enthusiasm, huh?
So that plate control needs to improve unless Adam Jones is going to develop Vlad Guerrero-level bat control skills. Is there hope?
According to Baseball-Reference.com, age 22 Adam Jones compares very favorably to Mark Kotsay, Dave Martinez and Johnny Damon (who all improved their plate control but never struck out like Jone) but the guy who I think looks the most like Jones is Chili Davis.
Davis struck out more than 100 times at age 22 and 23 but cut the strikeouts to 74 in his third season and although his strikeout total routinely crept over the 100 level over the course of his career, by then he was drawing plenty of walks and finished his career with an OBP of .360. (Also 350 career home runs...) This would be the career path we O's fans should hope for.
But this year, don't look for anything more than marginal improvement at the plate...