Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

MLB's No. 3 3B prospect fine-tuning bat in AFL

@JimCallisMLB
September 24, 2019

Nolan Jones already has proven he can solve Double-A pitching at age 21 and solidly has placed himself in the discussion of baseball's best third base prospects. But he wants to get even better, which is why he described himself as super excited to get the opportunity to play in

Nolan Jones already has proven he can solve Double-A pitching at age 21 and solidly has placed himself in the discussion of baseball's best third base prospects.

But he wants to get even better, which is why he described himself as super excited to get the opportunity to play in the Arizona Fall League. Even coming off a season in which he hit a combined .272/.409/.442 with 15 homers and a Minor League-high 96 walks in 126 games between high Class A and Double-A, he sees room for offensive growth.

Daily Indians AFL updates | Solar Sox roster & stats | Indians Top 30 prospects

Jones wants to use his time with the Mesa Solar Sox to refine his gameplan at the plate and improve his pitch selection. He noticed a difference in the quality of pitching once he moved up to Double-A in mid-July and knows he'll have to continue to adapt before he's ready to help the Indians.

"I think the pitchers are definitely better and there's no count where you're guaranteed a fastball," said Jones, the top-rated prospect in Cleveland's system and No. 38 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100. "I think that's different in the lower levels. There were definitely some counts where you could almost guarantee you're getting a fastball.

"In the upper levels, they're definitely more selective with their pitches and they're able to locate a lot of different pitches and they're moving in all different ways. So being able to zone in on what I want and to commit to a pitch is something I want to continue to focus on here."

Jones is off to a slow start, going 2-for-17 (.118) with seven strikeouts in his first four games. While he obviously wants to perform, he said results are less important than coming up with a sound plan and sticking to it.

One of the top high school hitting prospects in the 2016 Draft, Jones signed for first-round money ($2.35 million) in the second round. He has produced throughout his pro career and could arrive at Progressive Field in the second half of next season.

While his bat could make him a star, Jones has worked diligently on his defense as well. A shortstop as a Pennsylvania high schooler, he moved to third base after turning pro. He made 32 errors in his first 81 games at the hot corner but has settled down the last two seasons. He has the arm strength for the position and has improved his footwork, though some scouts still wonder if he'll have enough range to stay at third.

"I think there's a ton of progress been made and there's a ton of room to still get better and I think there always will be," Jones said. "The transition from shortstop to third base was a lot more difficult than I expected it be, just with the different throws, the different reads off the bat, balls are spinning different ways . . . I'm more comfortable over there at third and obviously I still don't think I'm nearly as good as I want to be."

Indians hitters in the Fall League

Ernie Clement, SS (No. 25 on Indians Top 30) -- A College World Series champion with Virginia in 2015 and the Cape Cod League MVP the next summer, Clement is a contact hitter with plus speed and steady defense. A fourth-round choice in 2017, he hit .269/.323/.331 with 17 steals in 101 games this season (mostly in Double-A).

Gavin Collins, C/1B -- Drafted as a catcher in the 13th round out of Mississippi State in 2016, Collins spent his first two pro seasons at third base before moving behind the plate for much of last two. He has some raw power and arm strength but still is a work in progress offensively and defensively after batting .262/.325/.395 with seven homers in 100 games in high Class A this year.

Indians pitchers in the Fall League

Manuel Alvarez, RHP -- Signed for just $10,000 out of the Dominican Republic at the relatively advanced age of 21 two years ago, Alvarez pairs a 91-97 mph fastball with a low-80s slider. He posted a 3.74 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings at two Class A levels in 2019.

Argenis Angulo, RHP -- Born and raised in Venezuela, Angulo pitched collegiately at Ranger (Texas) JC and got drafted in the 19th round in 2014. He has a low-90s fastball and a quality changeup that keeps left-handers in check, helping him log a 3.45 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this season.

Kirk McCarty, LHP -- When McCarty quarterbacked Oak Grove High (Hattiesburg, Miss.) to a state football championship in 2013, his offensive coordinator was NFL Hall of Famer Brett Favre. A seventh-round pick from Southern Mississippi in 2017, he's a finesse lefty who relies heavily on his curveball and sets it up with a low-90s four-seam fastball. He missed the first two months of this season, then recorded a 5.66 ERA with a 60/16 K/BB in 13 starts and 55 2/3 innings in high Class A.

Jonathan Teaney, RHP -- Teaney operates mostly with an 88-94 mph fastball and a slider. The 20th-rounder in 2017 from the University of San Diego had a 2.77 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings in high Class A this year.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.