Written by: Jake Tillinghast
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Indians No. 1 Prospect Nolan Jones 3B/1B/OF – Cleveland Indians (AA)
22 Years Old – Throw: R – Bat: L – 6’2″ 185lbs – ETA 2021
Drafted in 2016 in the 2nd Round; 55th overall out of Holy Ghost Preparatory School as a Shortstop. Nolan however, has played all but 39 innings as a professional at the hot corner. The Cleveland Indians #1 overall prospect is one of my favorite offensive prospects in the game. With such a strong ability to use the whole field, and Plus-Plus ability to work the count and draw walks at an incredibly high rate. Starting to Tap into his RAW PWR. Slowly improving on defense, there is a ton to dream on with Nolan Jones.
Selected to the 2019 Futures game, getting a chance to experience the Cleveland atmosphere for the 1st time and surely won’t be the last. He started at 3B and went 0-1. He was participating in the AFL in 2019 until a thumb injury ended his time there early to have surgery to repair an ulnar collateral ligament.
Nolan Jones led the Minor leagues with 96 walks in 2019, while also striking out 146 times, which in my opinion has a lot to do with his approach at the plate, more then his ability as a hitter. Although there is some swing and miss in his game don’t get me wrong. He looks to work counts for a pitch he can drive into the gaps and is willing to hit with 2 strikes, putting him in some difficult situations leading to a high number of strikeouts, and walks at the same time. It’s a trade-off I personally, will take all day. And that plate discipline is one of Jones’ best attributes as a player.
A Tall, Projectable, Left Handed Bat, still adding strength, with a smooth consistent swing. I love his ability to barrel up balls and use the whole field. And his power doesn’t lack going the other way. As you will see below.
Nolan has really good bat control and can handle just about any pitch that comes his way, with a + ability to consistently find the barrel of the bat.
2018: He shows a great ability to use the whole field, line to line. The majority of his extra Base hits including HR in 2018 went to the opposite field. I have always been a big believer in the ability to drive the ball the other way at a young age will translate to more in-game power down the road in a young player’s progression. Something I think Nolan Jones will benefit greatly from. As he matures, his ability to drive the ball to the pull side will only increase, as you will see in the next chart below. Slashed .283/.405/.466. Good for 89 Walks.
Advanced knowledge of the strike zone, and shows strong opposite field power at a young age. He in my opinion is one of the better overall hitters in the Minor Leagues. Nolan Jones uses the opposite field better than most hitters I have seen. Hitting nearly 40% of his batted balls the other way, Nolan shows a tremendous ability to control the bat in the zone.
2019: More pull in 2019, clearly. Started to tap into more RAW Pull PWR in games with some newly added strength to his tall frame. Now showing that ability to turn on pitches with authority during games, and down the line, still using the other away still at a well above average clip. He also had 96 walks in 126 games in 2019, as we mentioned above led the Minor Leagues. A .272 batting average good for a .409 OBP.
When Nolan broke into the minors in 2016, he was an EXTREME Ground ball hitter. 51.7% of his At bats ended being labeled a ground ball, granted he played just 32 games in 2016, but the trend would continue into 2017 where he posted a 53.5%. But some changes where starting to take place. Using the opposite field 35.8% of the time, almost as much as he was pulling the ball, 37.6%. He found his first few HRs as a pro hitting just 4 in 62 games, nothing to be doing back-flips over.
2018 is when things get very interesting and Nolan was able to start filling in his tall frame that lacked the strength and ability to drive the balls deep into the gaps and carry over the fence. While his GB rates still held high at 48.2%, he was starting to get some loft in his swing and get the ball in the air more, almost 30% of the time, and with that added strength he added heading into the season he smacked 19 HR in 2018. A huge jump from the 4 he hit combined in 94 games between 2016/17. He was driving the ball to all fields with consistent hard contact and not sacrificing his incredible plate discipline while doing so.
He stays on the ball so well with such an easy power stroke the other way.
Defense: 40/45 – Arm: 70/70
The defense needs some work at the hot corner and might be looking at a move to LF or 1B in the future due to it, not to mention Jose Ramirez currently locking down 3B for the Indians for the foreseeable future. You could see Ramirez slide to 2B to make room for Jones if he can make some strides defensively, but Ramirez seems destined to stay at the position longterm.
It makes more sense to move Jones across the diamond to 1B or out to a Corner Outfield spot and let him utilize his strong arm. RF is not out of the question with the 70 grade ARM being more than capable of handling the position, but in my opinion, he profiles better as an LF with below-average defense.
Room for Improvements:
vs LHP –
Nolan has struggled to consistently hit LHP. He has been able to still show the ability to draw walks. But has shown virtually no power against them, just 5 HR to date. Slight improvements would go a long way in allowing Nolan to stay on the field consistently vs LHP. At the moment he would have trouble being a full-time player due to it.
The range is an issue and might have trouble to stick at 3B Long term, he plays on his heels and his reactions are less than ideal. a Move to LF or 1B would hide some of his weaknesses with LF allowing him to utilize his big arm.
A big product of his approach more than his ability as a hitter. I have 0 problems with, I will live with his K with his ability to work counts, make pitchers work, and draw walks at an elite rate.
Summary 55 FV:
Nolan is on the verge of making his debut in Cleveland whenever we get back to baseball. If we see baseball back in 2020, expect to see Nolan Jones with the Indians this season in some type of role vs Right-Handed Pitching. Moving forward, I expect Nolan to move off 3B for a superior defender and move into a less demanding defensive position. Left to focus on his best tools as a run producer.
The Indians have an offensive stud in the making on their hands, if he can find some success against LHP as we touched on above, something he has struggled with, he can be an extremely productive everyday player for the Indians for the foreseeable future. With some All-Star consideration in his future if it all clicks. Able to settle in around 25-30 HR yearly while being in the Top 5% of the league in BB%.
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