Andruw Jones Fitted For Pinstripes

The first memory most fans have of Andruw Jones is witnessing the then-teenager terrorize the New York Yankees in Game One of the 1996 World Series. While Jones’ Braves ultimately came up short in that Fall Classic, the Curacao native announced his presence as a future star by belting two home runs (replacing Mickey Mantle as the youngest ever to go deep in the World Series) and striding swiftly to fly balls that mere mortals would have to dive for, or miss altogether.

Now, Jones’ career has come full circle. He has reportedly signed a one-year, $2 million deal to serve as the Yankees’ fourth outfielder, with an additional $1.2 million in performance incentives possible. Thirty-four in April, Jones has the secondary skills to start for some teams, and he may now be the best reserve fly catcher in the game.

Just a few years ago, Jones’ career looked cooked. He seemingly went on the Rich Garces Fitness Plan and suffered a right knee injury with the Dodgers in 2008, posting a .234 wOBA and performing nearly a full win worse than your garden variety waiver claim or minor league free agent. But since he left the West Cost, Jones has rebounded with wOBAs of .338 in 331 plate appearances with the Rangers in 2009 and .364 this past year in 328 trips to the plate with the White Sox.

While Rangers Ballpark and U.S. Cellular Field both boost right-handed power, Jones’ park and league-adjusted wOBA was still 14 percent above average (114 wRC+) from ’09 to ’10. As usual, his batting average on balls in play was far lower than most (.230 from ’09 to ’10, .274 career), but he walked in close to 14 percent of his plate appearances and posted an Isolated Power of exactly .250.

As a power hitter who performs best when pulling the ball — he has a .451 wOBA when ripping pitches to the left side over the past two years, compared to a .419 average for righty batters — Jones should find Yankee Stadium to his liking. The park is a neutral venue overall due to fewer doubles and triples being hit, but it boosts right-handed homers by 10 percent.

Jones is expected to shuttle around the outfield in the Bronx, occasionally filling in for lefties Brett Gardner (.316 wOBA in 262 career PA versus LHP) and Curtis Granderson (.275 career wOBA in 859 PA against southpaws) and perhaps getting some DH starts as well. It’s a role that he’ll fill well, and credit should go to the Yankees for adding a quality player to the roster at a minimal cost. But it’s arguably a role for which Jones is overqualified.

Gauging Jones’ defensive chops is admittedly difficult at this point, as he hasn’t played the outfield on more than a part-time basis since 2007. Maybe teams think he’s no longer a viable option as a regular outfielder. But if you think he can still cut it out there and he can put up a .340-.350 wOBA, Jones projects as a starting-caliber player. At this late juncture of free agency, however, jobs are scarce. In any event, kudos to the Yankees for bolstering their bench for an AL East Division fight that figures to be fierce yet again.




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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.


6 Responses to “Andruw Jones Fitted For Pinstripes”

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  1. MTK says:

    As a Yankees fan, I coveted and loved this move. Excellent upgrade defensively over Thames, and fits the Lefty-mashing role they’ve needed with Gardner and Granderson on their roster. It’ll be interesting if the upgrades NYY has accrued this offseason (Jones over Thames, R. Martin over Cervelli @ C, R. Soriano over committee/Wood @ SU, Posada over bags of chips @ DH) outweigh the departure of Pettitte’s value in their rotation.

    Interesting question: Does the sum of all these parts compete with the monster returns Boston gained with their offensive pickups? Solely confined to 2011, Boston can only hope the addition of A. Gonzalez can replace Beltre’s offense in 2010. Carl Crawford should exceed their returns from Mike Cameron/Bill Hall/rookie replacements, but Boston never had a problem with offense last year. An argument can be made that the Yankees shored up many of their deficiencies from last year, while Boston merely improved (albeit in spectacular ways) what was already a strength.

    That being said I will still cringe when I have to watch Mitre toe the rubber against Dice-K throughout the season.

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    • fredsbank says:

      perhaps, but with boston’s injured players returning and their pitching staff seeing a return to form they didnt really need to work on much…
      also they considerably improved their bullpen, no?

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    • Bobo says:

      Yeah, um I can only hope the .290/35/110 projected from Adrian is going to be adequate enough to satisfy us Red Sox fans. Confined to 2011, the Red Sox got better at every position they needed to. Did the Yankees match them? No, they didn’t. But what they did was adequate enough. Their offense is still going to be productive and score a lot of runs. I didn’t like the Soriano deal cause it felt so forced, as I thought Cashman was right. It still makes their bullpen that much better, but it did nothing for their rotation where 1-5 it’s not as strong as Boston’s overall.

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  2. Joe R says:

    Well the Yankees have a quality 4th OF now. Still think they’ll have to make a midseason move if they’re to beat Boston in 2011.

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  3. Hank says:

    Barring injuries:

    – Figure he’ll get 40-45 starts in the OF (10-15 games off for each of the OF’s)
    – He may get an extra couple of games if they give Tex a day off at 1st and shift Swisher there
    – maybe a few starts at DH (though on off days for Posada, Girardi will likely use that as ‘rest’ days for ARod and Jeter)
    – He’ll get late inning AB’s pinch hitting for Grandy/Gardner and some time potentially as a late inning defensive replacement for Swisher.

    And if there are any OF injuries this is a better option than Golston/Pena!/et.al

    So maybe 50 starts and a bunch of partial games, plus an insurance policy for 2mil? Seems pretty darn good; especially considering how thin their farm system is at the OF position.

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  4. Cidron says:

    Cool, they got a 4th OF. Now only if they can get a 4th SP !

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