DETROIT - The Detroit Tigers are a much better team with JaCoby Jones in center field, but the toolsy 26-year-old can't continue to be an automatic out, even at the bottom of the order.
Five-tool players are rare in baseball. There aren't many clones of Mike Trout or Mookie Betts around the league, which is why they're considered the best of the best.
Jones is a tantalizing player because he's got three excellent tools and one that's above average. Nobody graded out as a better defensive outfielder than Jones last season. He has great range and a strong arm to go with excellent speed.
When he puts the ball in play, his power and speed are plus tools offensively.
The missing tool is his ability to make contact and consistently put the ball in play with authority.
In his first season as a regular at the MLB level, Jones flashed his two most appealing offensive skills, hitting 22 doubles, six triples and 11 home runs while stealing 13 bases.
He was held back, however, by 142 strikeouts compared to 24 walks and a .266 on-base percentage.
So far, 2019 has been even worse. He's been back for 11 games and managed to reach base just eight times -- three times being hit by pitches.
Jones is such an elite defensive outfielder that he doesn't need to hit a lot to be a plus MLB player. This year, though, he's not hitting for average or power.
In his first five games back from the injured list, Jones went 4-18 with four singles, three strikeouts and a stolen base.
In the six games since, Jones is 1-20 with a single and eight strikeouts.
Overall, Jones has a .118 average, .118 slugging and .189 OBP.
His OPS, .327, wouldn't even be a very good on-base percentage. Of the 24 National League pitchers with at least nine at-bats, 11 have a higher OPS than Jones.
The Tigers should absolutely roll with Jones in center field this whole season. They're in the middle of a rebuild, and he's a player who's one step away from being a major part of the future.
That step is the most difficult one to take, though, and so far this year, Jones hasn't been moving in the right direction.
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