So, former Twins farmhand Garrett Jones has three homers in only ten plate appearances. He’s also coming off a breakout 2009 season, in which he batted .293/.372/.567 with 21 home runs in 358 plate appearances as a 28 year-old rookie. Naturally, Twins fans are a bit upset that the front office seemingly allowed a diamond in the rough to slip away. But was his breakout 2009 season somewhat of a fluke? Let’s look at the numbers:
Honestly, I would be surprised if Jones had a repeat of his monster season. First of all, his batting average on balls in play was well above the league-average, suggesting that he was getting a little lucky with some of his balls in play falling in for hits. It’s more likely that fielders didn’t know how to play him, and pitchers had yet to make adjustments to him, than that Jones suddenly found his swing when given more playing time. Most telling, however, is his fluky 21.2% HR/FB ratio compared to his rather average 0.98 GB/FB ratio. Jones was not hitting a ton of fly balls, but the ones he did hit happened to leave the park at a much higher rate than average, which suggests again that he was more lucky than good. However, Jones did display a little power in the minor leagues, so while he probably won’t have another .274 ISO season, he should still put up some pretty average power numbers this year.
Last year, Garrett Jones was a 2.6 WAR player for the Pirates. CHONE projects Jones to take a huge step backward to 1.5 WAR, but that isn’t at all terrible for someone Pittsburgh picked up off the scrap heap. As for the Twins, well, it’s hard to fault them for giving up on a player who had batted a miserable .208/.262/.338 in the major leagues (albeit in an extremely small sample size of 84 plate appearances), and who struck out 18.6% of the time in the minors. On top of that, there really wasn’t a position for him at either first base, where Justin Morneau is firmly entrenched, or the outfield (Go-Go was the fourth outfielder at the time, and Jones certainly didn’t project to be any better than Jason Kubel or Delmon Young). Sure, Jones would look nice as a backup outfielder now, but I’m sure he’d rather be a starter in Pittsburgh.