DETROIT -- The future isn't quite now for Tigers prospect JaCoby Jones, but he's about to take one big step closer to the big leagues. The organization promoted the slugger, the team's eighth-ranked prospect by MLBPipeline.com, from Double-A Erie to Triple-A Toledo, where he's expected to settle into center field as
DETROIT -- The future isn't quite now for Tigers prospect JaCoby Jones, but he's about to take one big step closer to the big leagues. The organization promoted the slugger, the team's eighth-ranked prospect by MLBPipeline.com, from Double-A Erie to Triple-A Toledo, where he's expected to settle into center field as his primary position.
The move happened after the Mud Hens' doubleheader Sunday night. Wynton Bernard, who made an impression in Detroit's Spring Training camp the past two years, was sent back to Toledo from Erie to make room, along with outfielder Jason Krizan.
Jones, who turned 24 years old last month, played just 20 games at Erie this year after serving out the final 39 games of the suspension he received last fall for testing positive for a substance of abuse. He batted .312 (24-for-77) with six doubles, two triples, four home runs and 20 RBIs. Jones' 10 walks boosted his on-base percentage to .393, part of a .991 OPS.
"He's off to a good start," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Monday. "He hasn't really been there too long, but in Double-A he got off to a good start."
Jones had just been promoted to Double-A when the Tigers acquired him from the Pirates for Joakim Soria, one of Dave Dombrowski's final deals as the team president/general manager. Jones played 37 games in Erie down the stretch, all of them at shortstop, then went to the Arizona Fall League to start the transition to third base.
Though Jones is a strong 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, he has the athleticism to play several positions. The Tigers kept their options open by having him split his time at Erie between third base and center field the past few weeks. However, Jones will serve as the primary center fielder with the Mud Hens, though he'll still get some sporadic time at third supporting Casey McGehee.
"He's playing a little bit of both, center and third," Ausmus said. "Right now we have Nick [Castellanos] at third, and he's pretty young, under [club contract] control. He's doing both, but if you want to look at it from an organizational stand point, center field is a little more attractive if he can play center field. Comerica Park's got a massive center field."
That shift has short- and long-term ramifications for Anthony Gose, who went from Opening Day center fielder in Detroit in April to Toledo by mid-May to now an extra outfielder with the Mud Hens. He entered Monday batting .205 (15-for-73) at Toledo, with two extra-base hits, eight walks and 33 strikeouts.
Meanwhile, Cameron Maybin has taken over in center field in Detroit and has given the Tigers an infusion of energy, batting .414 (29-for-70) through Sunday, with 15 runs and nine RBIs. The Tigers have a $9 million option on Maybin for next season, the final part of a five-year, $25 million contract he signed with the Padres before the 2012 season.
At this point, Jones isn't expected to get fast-tracked to Detroit.
"There's always a scenario that could happen," Ausmus said, "but there's not any plans."
Still, a strong summer could set up an interesting offseason decision for the Tigers, whether in center field or at a super utility position.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.