Rockies swing deal for 'dynamic' prospect Jones

March 21st, 2024

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies added speed and versatility on Thursday by acquiring middle-of-the-diamond switch-hitter Greg Jones from the Rays for left-handed pitching prospect Joe Rock.

The Rockies also designated for assignment recently reacquired outfielder Sam Hilliard to make room for Jones, 26, on their Major League 40-man roster. Colorado's staff will have to see Jones in the final days of Spring Training. He batted .357 (5-for-14) with a home run, two RBIs and seven strikeouts in 10 games of Grapefruit League play for the Rays.

Rockies get: SS Greg Jones (Rays’ No. 24 prospect, per MLB Pipeline)
Rays get: LHP Joe Rock (Rockies’ No. 15 prospect)

Jones, who MLB Pipeline ranks as Colorado's No. 23 prospect, has two Minor League options, has played minimally in Triple-A and hasn’t debuted in the Majors. But whether he is with the Rockies on Opening Day or begins the year with Triple-A Albuquerque for at-bats, Jones could make the Major League roster more flexible.

“He’s a multi-positional player, dynamic with the speed and has shown a little bit of power, so we’ll see,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “Hopefully with a change of scenery he can come into his own as a weapon who can help us beat the opponent, with defense capabilities. Potentially there’s some upside, what he's shown in the Minor Leagues with Tampa Bay.”

A first-round Draft pick in 2019 out of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, Jones has played mostly shortstop but has also logged 36 games in center field and has shown base-stealing ability, going 114-for-133 in his Minor League career. He has a career .266/.349/.438 slash line.

"Incredible athlete, very talented, certainly wish him really well,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He's been great every stop along the way. This spring, you could see noticeable improvements to his offensive approach and certainly a guy that can play two premium positions in short and center. He's going to find his way to the big leagues."

Last season, Jones played 71 combined games with Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham and slashed .244/.318/.432 with 10 home runs, 35 RBIs and 24 steals in 28 attempts, but missed time with a right hamstring strain. Jones had 109 strikeouts last season and 128 the previous year, and will be looking to curb that figure.

“He’s making strides with the bat, and you’re talking about an athlete with tools. He brings a tool set that we don’t have currently in our organization,” Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt said. “It’s impact speed. He’s primarily a shortstop, but we always saw he could play the outfield, too. They moved him to center to showcase his athleticism.”

The Rockies are looking at various options for backups for shortstop Ezequiel Tovar and center fielder Brenton Doyle, who earned starting jobs as rookies last year and enter this season in the regular lineup.

With Thursday’s move regarding Hilliard, the prime candidates in Major League camp are experienced non-roster invitees Alan Trejo, the primary infield backup last year, and Bradley Zimmer, a former Cleveland first-round selection. Both are having solid springs.

Trejo, who has been nursing a hamstring cramp but said he should be able to play on Friday, entered Thursday batting .281 in 32 Spring Training at-bats. Zimmer entered Thursday batting .350 in 40 at-bats.

Hilliard began his career with the Rockies in 2019 and spent four years in Colorado before joining the Braves last season. He was in the Orioles’ camp when the Rockies claimed him off waivers on Feb. 28. If Hilliard is not claimed by another club, he has the right to opt for free agency or stay with the Rockies as Triple-A depth.

Tampa Bay-bound Rock, a second-round pick in 2021, pitched with Double-A Hartford and Albuquerque last year, and was invited to Major League camp as part of the starting pitching depth picture.