Of all the 26-and-under talent that he Oriole have on their roster, Adam Jones is the most likely to have a breakout season in 2011.
Really, it feels like it should have happened last year. A 6'2" centerfielder who can run like the wind and shows even the limited power that Jones has up to this point is an intriguing package. There's a lot of baseball potential in his physical gifts.
Potential. There's that dirty word again. The Orioles are full of players whom the fans are waiting on to convert that potential into useful products like hits, home runs and wins. But Jones is poised to do just that.
Leaving out his disastrous April, here's Jones' stats from May 1st on:
BA OBP SLG OPS BB K 2B HR Jones '10 .297 .341 .454 .795 21 95 21 16
You can accuse me of cherry-picking the numbers but it's not like he had a great May either.
But those numbers are basically what he hit the season before. So why am I encouraged? I can't put my finger on it. Maybe it's because of the work he put in to overcome the start of his season. He learned to lay off the low and outside pitch better and made the adjustments to salvage his season. This gives me hope that his free swinging ways can be tempered a bit and he can become a more consistent and effective offensive player. And any young player who has the mental toughness and work ethic to overcome a rough patch...well, that just bodes well for a physical talent like Jones. It's a good combination.
According to Baseball Reference, his most similar comps are Chili Davis and Dave Winfield, two players who overcame their aversion to the walk and became more patient hitters. I'll take either of those careers for Jones, especially from a center fielder.
He's always going to be a bit of a free swinger, something that may hold him back offensively. But a new hitting coach, one that has experience actually improving young hitters, can't hurt.