Traded from the Mariners to the Orioles in the 2008 offseason, Adam Jones is now wrapping up his eighth season in Baltimore. After producing a .270/9/61/57/20 roto-slash in 132 games his rookie season, and after roto-slashing .277/19/83/70/10 in only a 119 games in 2009, Jones was something of a fantasy disappointment in 2010 (especially for those dreaming on a full season of his 2009 production) with a .284/19/76/69/7 line over 149 games. Moreover, Jones—whose approach already left much to be desired, saw his strikeout and walk rates (19.2% and 3.7%, respectively) move the wrong way.
Since then, Jones has (i) become a premium fantasy baseball talent and (ii) been consistently underrated. Whether it was because of wariness towards the poor approach, the figuratively bad taste left in the mouths of some snake bitten owners, the anonymity of producing on what were initially pretty poor Orioles’ teams, or something else, Jones has consistently been one of the most valuable fantasy players over the past four years, especially when acquisition cost is considered.
Besides generally being a great value, Jones had been a true five-category contributor in the timeframe’s suppressed offensive environment. From 2011-2014, Jones averaged 158 games played, 29.75 home runs, 89.75 runs scored, 92.25 RBI, and 12.25 stolen bases per season all while batting posting batting averages between .280 and .287. The approach still left something to be desired, but Jones continued to produce, forcing us to ask whether we were placing too much emphasis on approach (we were). Moreover, an undervalued player does not remain undervalued forever, and he appeared to finally be getting the appropriate attention and acquisition price as we headed into 2015.
2015 Thus Far
In most ways, 2015 for Adam Jones has been indistinguishable from his past seasons. His runs scored, RBI, and AVG are a slight tick down and the strikeout rate (17.3%) a tick improved, but the home runs (27), on-base percentage (.311), and slugging percentage (.480) are all in line with what has become a typical Adam Jones season. Even the batted-ball-type splits, batted-ball-direction distribution, and contact-type splits are right in line with Jones’s previously established career norms.
The one outlier has been stolen bases. Jones has three stolen bases thus far in 2015. Now one might note that this was to be expected because he had seen his stolen bases drop for three straight years, from 16 to 14 to seven. That is certainly true, but it is of interest that he had decreased his times caught stealing from seven to three to one in that time span. That is to say that, while 2014 saw Jones stealing fewer bases it appeared likely that he could return to his days of double-digit-steal season because he had become a more efficient base-stealer. Put differently, we often see stolen-base totals decrease from year to year as players’ base-stealing efficiency decreases, presumably because their managers or their prides tell them to pump the breaks. Regardless, Jones decided to try to steal bases at an even lower rate in 2015 (he has only been caught once).
What to Expect for the Rest of 2015
The production he has provided thus far in 2015, which is just his usual production sans stolen bases.
The Great Beyond
The easy thing to do and probably the smart thing to do are to expect more of the same. But before we do so, let us do a little digging just to cross our t’s and dot our i’s.
While on the topic of stolen bases, it appears likely that Jones will continue his decreased stolen base ways as he has become a “true, middle of the order hitter” (whatever that means). That said, given his efficiency, a seven to 12 steal season is still not a completely improbably outcome for 2016. The question then becomes whether his decreased stolen-base totals are an indicator of diminished speed and thus an indicator of decreased future BABIP and thus AVG. Point: His BABIP is down in 2015 to .285 after being in the .304-.314 range in 2011-2014. Counterpoint: His infield-hit rate has been pretty much flat the past three seasons (2013-2015). Another counterpoint: His defense has not appeared to slip. So while it seems reasonable to hypothesize that an aging player is slowing down, the data does not really back that up. This is all to say that a .270-.290 AVG seems to be the most likely outcome for Jones (again) in 2016.
As far as beyond 2016, Jones will eventually slow down, but we need to continue to monitor the information we have before declaring that he will. So we are going to assume the AVG holds as do the diminished stolen-base totals, but what about the power? Like everything else, Jones’s power metrics, which includes his extra-base-hit totals and HR:FB ratio, remain incredibly consistent if not a tick down. So the projection systems will probably give us some age-related regression (and rightfully so), but there do not appear to be any other flags worth noting.
All in all, Jones is probably no longer a top 15 player (which was his 2015 ADP) he is still probably worthy of a pick in the 25-30 range in 2016. Beyond that, Jones will likely to continue to be what he has been for the next couple of years, as boring as that prediction might be.
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