To say that Garrett Jones burst onto the MLB scene would be an understatement.
The then-unheralded 28-year old found himself getting called up to the big leagues by the Pittsburgh Pirates in late June of 2009, and simply proceeded to tear the cover off the ball in a way that few had done as a rookie.
Jones hit an incredible 21 homers in just 358 PA, racking up 10 steals, while posting a .293/.372/.567 triple slash that even earned him some buzz in Rookie of the Year talks.
Not too shabby, especially for a player who never posted an OPS in the minors higher than .850.
Naturally, the Pirates did not hesitate in giving Jones the starting job following his much-ballyhooed rookie debut..and he was unable to come close to replicating that success for two straight years. The first baseman hit just .245 between 2010 to 2011, and his .734 OPS ranked him near the bottom among his peers.
To put it in simpler terms: Jones was a 2.8 fWAR player in 82 games back in 2009. Over the next 306 games, he was a 1.3 fWAR bust with a few months of productive bursts.
The Pirates stuck around with him, though, and in 2012, the team’s patience started to pay off. Though the 31-year old was hardly the out-of-nowhere surprise he was back in 2009, Jones showed good homer run power, hitting a career-high 27 over 515 PA, and posted a useful-enough .274/.317/.516 triple slash.
In fact, if you were to look at Jones’ career to date, and take out the fantastic rookie year he had, his numbers have actually been trending upwards. His .832 OPS in 2012 was a three-year high, and ditto his 123 wRC+.
Jones’ 1.9 fWAR 2012 put him in the middle of the pack of first baseman, as opposed to near the bottom. At this rate, he might even start putting himself near the top of the pack in 2013.
To do that, Jones will have to see his power hold steady at last season’s levels. With 550+ PA, he could potentially top 30 homers for the first time in his career.
More importantly, though, Jones will need his BABIP to stay close to .300 to prop up his average to around .270 for him to continue being useful. There’s good reason to believe his .274 and .283 BABIP from 2010 to 2011 were outliers, given that his BABIP has been higher in the minors, and in the years sandwiched between.
Put that together in the fourth spot in the lineup in 2013, and what the Pirates have is essentially Chris Davis – who had his own minor breakout in 2012 to lead the Baltimore Orioles in homers – with a little less power.
That might not be the type of player Jones initially emerged as, but after coming out of 2011 looking like a post-rookie bust, the Pirates’ first baseman could wind up approaching the kind of success that was anticipated of him yet.