Last season the Orioles gave center field prospect Adam Jones exactly what he had been hoping for since he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2003, the Orioles gave Jones an opportunity to play. In 2008 Adam Jones played in 132 games during the season, a dramatic increase from his previous two seasons with the Mariners in which he played in only 73 games combined.
This season Jones is no longer a “prospect”, he is the Orioles starting center fielder and a major piece of the club’s decade plus “rebuilding” process. No longer are the training wheels left on the bike for Adam, this season Orioles manager Dave Trembly has Jones batting second in the lineup, a move that should really benefit the young center fielder.
While some people might not realize the major advantage of batting second in the Orioles lineup compared to eighth where he hit last season, the difference in the batting lineup could help Adam Jones have a breakout 2009 season. Batting behind a great leadoff batter like Orioles all-star second baseman Brian Roberts will allow Jones to see much better pitches from the opposition. Roberts gets on base nearly 40% of the time and is always a threat to steal bases and maintains an amazing success rate of nearly 80% on his way to swiping 226 career bases. When Roberts gets on base the opposing pitcher is forced to throw more fastballs to the next batter in order to help their catcher have a better chance of throwing out Roberts steal attempts. Assuming that Roberts is able to continue his success both getting on base and stealing bases, Jones should see many more fastballs during his at bats. Many young hitters struggle in the major leagues early in their careers because the pitchers tend to throw a lot of breaking and off speed pitches knowing that any player that makes the big leagues can hit the fastball. This too was apparent with Jones last season after striking out 108 times.
Plugging Jones into the top of the batting order in between Roberts the base stealer and Nick Markakis the Orioles best hitter should allow Jones the best opportunity to see enough fastballs to improve on his .270 batting average, 9 home runs, and 57 runs batted in that he finished the ’08 season with. This season I think Jones should be in the neighborhood of a .300 batting average, 20 home runs, and 80 runs batted in, with the change in the batting order really improving his opportunities to be successful simply by having better pitches to hit.
“Throw’em the heat meat.” Crash Davis from Bull Durham