24 Feb

healthy start

After a frustrating, injury-marred 2019 season, former Richton High standout JaCoby Jones has come out of the gate strong this spring for the Detroit Tigers. He led off Sunday’s Grapefruit League game against Pittsburgh with a home run off Derek Holland and is 2-for-4 with two RBIs in two games. Jones, penciled in again as the Tigers’ regular center fielder, did three separate stints on the disabled list in 2019, playing in just 88 games. His season ended in early August when he broke his left wrist. Jones calls last year a “fluke thing.” “All my career I’ve been durable and been able to stay on the field. … This year I want to do everything I can to stay on the field for 150 games,” he told The Detroit News in January. Jones batted .235 last year – 24 points better than his career mark – and hit 11 homers with seven steals. During May and June, he batted .281 with eight homers, 22 RBIs and 24 runs. Detroit would love to see that kind of production over a full season. Regarded as a plus defender, Jones had some struggles in the field in 2019, possibly related to shoulder and back injuries. A third-round pick out of LSU by Pittsburgh in 2013, Jones turns 28 in May and is facing what might be a pivotal time in his career.

30 Jun

gold standard

JaCoby Jones, an exceptional athlete, runs down a lot of balls in center field for Detroit. Check out the catch the former Richton High star made Saturday, taking a home run away from a Washington batter. Though he hasn’t been as good with the glove this year (.974 fielding percentage, four errors in 65 games), Jones actually topped all major league outfielders in 2018 with 21 Defensive Runs Saved. In 120 games and just over 1,000 innings, he made 284 putouts, some of those as a left fielder. He also had eight assists and just one error. As good as he might be, Jones isn’t likely to make longtime Tigers fans forget Chet Lemon. The Jackson native is the gold standard for Tigers center fielders. “The Jet” (aka “Juice”) recorded 509 putouts in center field for Detroit in 1977 to set a major league record, and he had five seasons of 400-plus putouts. Longtime manager Sparky Anderson called him the best center fielder he had ever seen. “(H)e plays each game as if it were the seventh game of the World Series. Chester doesn’t know any other way to play and that’s his greatest asset,” Anderson once said. Lemon, now a youth baseball instructor and coach in Florida, grew up in California, was a first-round draft pick by Oakland in 1972 and played 16 years in the majors, making three All-Star teams and winning a ring with the 1984 Tigers, who coincidentally, were honored at Comerica Park this weekend. He hit .273 career with 215 home runs and 884 RBIs. Jones (.252 this year, .213 career) hasn’t hit like that either.

24 Mar

ups and downs

A shoulder injury apparently will land JaCoby Jones on the injured list to start the season, a blow for both Jones and his team, the Detroit Tigers. The ex-Richton High star was penciled in as the starting center fielder, despite a less than stellar spring with the bat (.196). A published report said he could be out a month. Jones, no longer a kid at 27, finally got extended paying time last year and hit .207 with 11 homers, 34 RBIs and 13 steals. The Tigers like his speed and athleticism, especially in the outfield. He injured his left (non-throwing) shoulder diving for a ball on Saturday. … A season-ending injury to Tigers ace Michael Fulmer may have opened the door for Madison Central alum Spencer Turnbull to make Detroit’s rotation to start the season. Turnbull, who debuted last summer, has been impressive this spring with a 1.80 ERA in five outings, including a strong start against Bryce Harper and Philadelphia on Wednesday. “I’m happy with how I’ve done,” he told the Detroit Free Press. … Former Horn Lake and Northwest Mississippi Community College standout Cody Reed got bad news on Friday when he was optioned to Triple-A by Cincinnati. After a good showing at the end of 2018, Reed went into spring training expected to contend for a job in the Reds’ rotation. He was shifted to bullpen duty and posted a 7.00 ERA in eight games, much of the damage being done in one appearance. A hard-throwing lefty, he’ll get back to The Show at some point.

26 Aug

cardboard treasure

Topps Baseball 2018 Series 2 Card No. 383. That card is not likely to be a hot commodity among big-time collectors, but any Mississippi baseball aficionado will get a charge out of seeing it. It’s a JaCoby Jones base card – but there’s a bonus. The card features an action shot of Jones, the young Detroit Tigers outfielder from Richton, as he rounds third base in an apparent home run trot. He is about to get a low-5 hand-slap from the Tigers’ third-base coach, Dave Clark, the former Shannon High slugger. Two Magnolia State prep legends on one card. Jones was Mr. Baseball in the state in 2010 before going off to LSU. He was a third-round draft pick by Pittsburgh in 2013 and debuted in the majors with the Tigers in 2016. Way back in 1980, Clark set a state record for homers with 23 at Shannon. He went on star at Jackson State and was drafted 11th overall by Cleveland in 1983. He played 13 seasons in the majors, batting .264 with 62 homers and earning a reputation as one of the game’s top pinch hitters in his heyday. He is in his fifth season as a Detroit coach. P.S. Jones, aka “Juicy J,” is currently on an injury rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo. He is batting .204 with eight homers this season for the Tigers.

15 Jun

seize the moment

Tie game, seventh inning, two outs, one on. Minnesota manager Paul Molitor decided to let starting pitcher Lance Lynn face one more Detroit batter. That batter was JaCoby Jones. It was a Mississippi baseball aficionado moment Thursday at Comerica Park. Jones, the former Mr. Baseball from Richton High, hit a 3-1 fastball from Lynn, the former Ole Miss star, over the left-field wall, sending Lynn to the dugout and the Tigers to a 3-1 win. The slumping Jones, who had fanned in his first two at-bats against Lynn, said he guessed fastball and got one. It was his fifth homer of the year; he is batting .222 with 18 RBIs in 62 games. The Tigers have resisted the urge to send Jones to the minors to work on his hitting. His defense in left field remains a plus. “And with the energy that he brings, I love the kid,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, the old Jackson Met, told mlb.com. Lynn, who was 3-0 in his previous four starts and took a shutout into the seventh, fell to 4-5, 4.98 ERA. “I need to be better next time,” he told The Associated Press. P.S. With his fifth homer, Jones has caught Zack Cozart and Corey Dickerson for fourth place in the All-Mississippi Home Run Derby race, which has slowed to a crawl. Leader Tim Anderson has 11 but none since May 28. Mitch Moreland hit his 10th on June 3, same day Brian Dozier got No. 9. Cozart hasn’t gone deep since May 9, Dickerson since May 4.

20 Jul

whatever happened to …

JaCoby Jones, the former Richton High star, is, for the foreseeable future, stuck at Triple-A Toledo in the Detroit organization. After the Tigers traded J.D. Martinez on Tuesday and needed another outfielder, Jim Adduci got the call, not Jones, the Tigers’ ninth-rated prospect. Detroit manager Brad Ausmus told the Detroit Free Press there “was no thought” given to bringing Jones back up. “We want JaCoby to play every day down there at Triple-A, get at-bats on a regular basis,” Ausmus said. Jones is hitting .239 with eight homers and 30 RBIs for the Mud Hens. The 25-year-old fifth-year pro began the season as Detroit’s center fielder and was the first Mississippian to homer in the big leagues in 2017. That was on April 4. That remains his only homer in 22 MLB games this year. He was batting just .150 in late April when he was struck in the mouth by a pitch and went on the disabled list. A rehab assignment at Toledo became a regular assignment; he was recalled briefly in late May, going back down on June 6. Jones, 6 feet 2, 205 pounds, has shown power (55 homers) and speed (64 steals) in his minor league career, which began in the Pittsburgh system. He also has versatility, capable of playing shortstop and third base. But the Tigers seem to feel he needs more – and better – at-bats at Toledo to rate another shot at The Show.

23 Apr

scary stuff

JaCoby Jones’ tough season took a turn for the worse on Saturday when the ex-Richton High star was hit in the mouth by a pitch. Detroit’s rookie center fielder left the field with a mouthful of blood and received nine stitches in his lip at a Minnesota hospital but reportedly is otherwise OK. The Tigers put Jones, batting just .150 with a homer and four RBIs, on the 10-day disabled list. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told the Detroit Free Press the sight of Jones’ injury made him “squeamish.” (Cue up the video; it is scary.) The pitch was a fastball thrown up and in by Twins reliever Justin Haley. The Tigers had hit two home runs earlier in that third inning off Adalberto Mejia. When Tigers starter Matt Boyd threw a pitch behind Miguel Sano later in the game, tempers flared and benches cleared. Boyd and Sano were ejected. Detroit went on to win 5-4. The teams play again today at Target Field.

05 Apr

first of many

The first big league bomb by a Mississippian in 2017 was launched Tuesday by Richton High product JaCoby Jones. Jones, a lightly seasoned rookie who won Detroit’s center field job in spring training, hit a three-run homer off the Chicago White Sox’s Jose Quintana, propelling the Tigers to a 6-3 win at Guaranteed Rate Field. Jones reacted to his first MLB homer by flashing a No. 1 sign as he left the batter’s box. Jones, who goes 6 feet 2, 205 pounds, has pop. He hit 23 homers in a minor league campaign in 2014, when he was in Pittsburgh’s system. He also stole a base on Tuesday, showing off another tool. He swiped 25 bags in the minors in 2015. Jones brings youth and athleticism to a Tigers’ team that needs just such an injection.

11 Mar

keeping up with jones

The Detroit Tigers page on mlb.com lists Richton’s JaCoby Jones third on the depth chart of center fielders, behind Mikie Mahtook and Tyler Collins. Of the three, all competing for the starting job, Jones has clearly had the better spring. He is 7-for-18 with three doubles and a homer, which he hit on Thursday. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has said he is impressed with Jones’ defensive abilities. Yet there remains much debate about whether Jones will make the big league team to start 2017. “He’s got the potential to be a very talented major league player, but even the best major league players usually require some honing of their skills prior to the big leagues,” Ausmus told mlb.com. In the Sporting News’ preseason yearbook, a rival scout questioned Jones’ maturity. Jones, 24, batted .214 in 13 games for the Tigers in 2016. In 364 minor league games, the 2013 third-round pick has hit .269 with 47 homers and 58 steals. He was a middle infielder at Richton and LSU and played mostly shortstop in the low minors before transitioning to third base and then the outfield. Bottom line: Jones, who goes 6 feet 2, 205 pounds, might start 2017 in Triple-A, but it would be surprising if he’s stuck in Toledo for very long. P.S. Former Picayune High standout T.J. House apparently is OK after being struck in the back of the head by a line drive while pitching for Toronto on Friday. A bloodied House was taken off the field on a stretcher and spent the night in a Florida hospital. He tweeted shortly after the incident that “things are looking good.” The left-hander, who has big league time with Cleveland, is in the Blue Jays’ camp as a non-roster invitee.

17 Oct

familiar territory

JaCoby Jones is off to a good start – again – in the Arizona Fall League. The former Mr. Baseball from Richton High is 4-for-10 with a home run, five RBIs and three runs through five games for Salt River. Jones, a highly rated Detroit prospect, played in the high caliber AFL last year, too, and was doing quite well before being slapped with a drug suspension that lasted into his 2016 minor league season. Having spent some time in the majors this year, Jones is back for more seasoning in the AFL, older and presumably a bit wiser. “I think the biggest thing I learned in the big leagues was how to prepare myself before games,” Jones, 24, told mlb.com. A third-round pick (by Pittsburgh) out of LSU in 2013, Jones batted .257 with seven homers in Double-A and Triple-A in 2016 and got an August call-up from the Tigers. He hit .214 in 28 at-bats. Jones, 6 feet 2, 205 pounds, is a career .269 hitter in the minors with 47 homers and 58 steals and can play virtually anywhere in the field. P.S. Ex-Mississippi State standout Tyler Moore, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College alum Joey Butler, Ole Miss product Alex Presley and Starkville native Julio Borbon have become minor league free agents. Moore spent all of this past season at Triple-A Gwinnett in Atlanta’s system but played in only 25 games (.229, three homers) because of injuries. Butler also spent all of the season in Triple-A for Cleveland, while Presley (Detroit) and Borbon (Baltimore) did see some big league duty. … Hawtin Buchanan, the 6-8 former Ole Miss pitcher from Biloxi, has signed a minor league deal with Cincinnati. He pitched in the independent United Shore League this year after being released in spring training by Seattle.