June 1, 2012
Adam Jones' Unusual Breakout
We know at least one thing for sure about the future of Orioles outfielder Adam Jones: whatever Jones does today, tomorrow, or in 2018, he won’t lack for meal money. Last week, the O’s signed the 26-year-old to a six-year, $85.5 million extension that includes a $2 million signing bonus and guarantees him an average annual salary of roughly $14 million over the next six seasons. If Jones plays poorly, he’ll still have more money in the bank at the end of the deal than most players ever make. If he plays well, he’ll be young enough to command another mega-contract when he finally becomes a free agent. Either way, his financial future is assured.
We can’t predict Jones’ on-field future with quite the same clarity. Jones is two months into what’s shaping up to be a breakout season, which probably prompted the Orioles to make a long-term commitment when they did. Even after an 0-for-2 performance on Wednesday night snapped a 20-game hitting streak, he boasts a .327 True Average (TAv), the fifth-best figures in the American League and a giant leap above both his .265 career TAv entering the season and the .282 mark he managed in 2011. If what we’re seeing now is Jones’ new true talent level, Baltimore could spot him several more million and still get a steal on the extension.
However, some giant leaps lead to stumbles. Jones won’t be a bust, but if he regresses toward his past performance, the Orioles might wish they’d bought a little lower. With the exception of last night’s 0-fer, Jones has stayed hot even as the first-place Orioles have faltered. But to keep his stats from suffering a similar swoon, he’ll have to play his way into an extremely exclusive group. Few players have sustained a power boost like the one Jones has shown in April and May over a full season. Jones’ isolated power, a measure of how many extra bases he averages per at-bat, has risen from .185 last season to .304 in 2012, placing him behind only Josh Hamilton and Adam Dunn. Only 11 players in history have raised their ISOs from under .200 in one season of at least 500 plate appearances to over .300 in the next.