Since being using the fifty-fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft to select Nolan Jones, the Indians have moved Jones around the field a little bit. When the Tribe first picked Jones out of Holy Ghost Prep Jones was a shortstop. His power profiled better at the hot corner however, which is where Cleveland has stationed the twenty-two year old for the majority of his four minor league seasons. The Indians place a premium on versatility in their position though and have thus had Jones spend time at first base and in the outfield as well. But no matter where he plays on defense, the Langhorne, Pennsylvania native is always a threat at the plate. Regarded as one of the top high school hitters in the 2016 class Jones has only progressed from there. His raw power is one of his best tools but it can at times get him into trouble. When he swings for the fences the ball doesn’t always get there. In his first call up to the Double-A Akron Rubber Ducks he posted a K-rate over thirty percent. The trick for Jones will be will be to keep from getting over-eager. He has the ability to work deep into counts but so far that’s paid off in strikeouts more often than hits. Despite those struggles the 2019 Future’s Game selection has plenty of time to develop. He has performed well enough at every level as indicated by his career .243/.409/.448 minor league slash line. He’ll have time to work on that in 2021. He likely won’t be called up until later in the season as Jose Ramirez mans third and Cleveland tries to sort out their middle infield in a post-Lindor world. Progressive Field’s outfield is wide open too if Jones can prove himself there. Jones will get his shot eventually and a retooling Cleveland baseball team might be just the place to do it.
Jones was one of the best prep hitters in 2016 but here we are five years later. Collectors are usually impatient and much more interested in the latest wunderkind than a player that takes more than half a decade to develop. Jones has suffered the blunt end of that “What have you done for me lately?” attitude during his time on the farm. Before January his 2016 Bowman Draft autograph was posting meager sales numbers and even though they saw a bump in the first month of the new year he still has yet to break twenty total sales. Of the sales that have been made in the new year though the value has been rising. Seven months ago the average sale of his raw, base first Bowman Chrome autograph card was $47.75. The ten most recent sales of the same card have averaged $81.82. The 71.4% value increase and growing sales numbers correspond with Jones climb up the prospect rankings. He climbed five spots up Baseball America’s rankings from 2020 to 2021 and fourteen spots on Baseball Prospectus’ list. It’s an impressive climb after not taking any professional at bats for over a year. The global pandemic clearly hasn’t scared scouts or collectors off of Jones. Now that he’ll once again have a full season of development it’ll be interesting to follow how the hobby responds. After the recent increase in value I would predict a plateau until he makes his debut. From there, he seems to have the offensive tools to excel. He would have to really stand out for his card values to climb significantly from where it is currently though. For that reason, I would stand pat on adding any Jones cards to my collection right now. Once he takes some major league cuts however, he may be a hot buy next offseason.
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