<
>

The new Adam Jones

5/20/2012

If you ever need evidence that player development isn't linear, look no further than Adam Jones.

After a steady rise through the minor leagues, he flamed out in his first big-league exposure, was pretty much the best player in the majors for the first two months of the 2009 season, leveled off for two years and now, of course, is playing as well as anyone in baseball.

On Saturday night, Jones went 3-for-4 with a homer to help the Baltimore Orioles beat the Washington Nationals 6-5 to maintain their first-place position in the American League East. In the process, Jones raised his season line to .310 AVG/.356 OBP/.619 SLG with 14 jacks.

As fans, we love watching greatness, and it's frustrating to watch someone who we think should be great fall short of that. And Jones always seemed like a guy who should be a superstar. He has a fluid swing and natural power, and he glides across the outfield. And when he put up a .344/.398/.607 line with 11 home runs through the first two months of the 2009, the baseball world thought it had another star on its hands. But then he hit just .229 the rest of the way, and he hadn't reached those heights until this season.

The crazy thing is, he was actually remarkably consistent over the last three seasons. Check out his batting lines:

2009: .277/.335/.457

2010: .284/.325/.442

2011: .280/.319/.466

Those numbers, combined with strong defense in center, made Jones a valuable player, just not a star. And because of those eight weeks in 2009, we all knew there was a beast somewhere inside of Jones just waiting to come out. The Orioles, in fact, were counting on it, and now that Jones has rediscovered his superstar form, he and his club have the baseball world taking notice.

Like the Orioles, it's easy to say that Jones is playing over his head. For example, 25.5 percent of his fly balls have gone over the fence, which is twice his career rate. And since he doesn't walk all that much, he's always going to be subject to the vagaries of balls in play. However, I'd like to think this is simply a star coming into his own at age 26, and maybe he has discovered a new level of play.

Fact is there are few players in baseball I'd rather watch than Jones right now, and the Orioles' surprising success has been one of most fun stories of the year. Whether it for a month or five years, I'm going to enjoy this kind of play from Jones and the O's for as long as it lasts.