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Pirate’s Quadruple-A slugger Jones mashes seven homers in 12 games.

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To say the Pirate’s front office and management team is the worst in baseball could, quite possibly, be an understatement. It might be the worst in all of sports.

The team’s owners refuse to spend money. As a result, star after budding star heads to free agency and bigger markets; over the last couple years, fans have seen the departures of favorites Xavier Nady, Jason Bay, and Nate McLouth. The returns on those stars have been less-than-stellar. And despite having multiple first round picks every year, the team hasn’t put together a good draft since 2005 or even groomed a solid minor league system. In the best example of the team’s draft failures, the club insanely passed on switch-hitting catcher Matt Wieters for left-handed pitcher Daniel Moskos in 2007. Moskos, who was once an okay prospect, projects as nothing more than a league-average middle reliever while Wieters is already a major league starting catcher.

To put it bluntly, the team deserves to finish in last place every year.

But sometimes even the worst organizations can do good things.

The Pirate’s took their time bringing up star-in-the-making Andrew McCutchen. That’s one of them. They took a chance on the tantalizing Lastings Milledge as part of a fairly nondescript trade earlier this season. That’s another. And during the 2008 offseason, they acquired Quadruple-A slugger Garrett Jones. It was a subtle move of actual management that proves there just might be something resembling hope in Pittsburgh.

Before the 2009 season, Garrett Jones had spent the better part of the last decade toiling in the minor leagues as part of the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins systems. And while his batting average perennially left something to be desired, it was hard for clubs to dismiss his power and run-creating potential. Jones’ good glove in the corner outfield positions and first base was also a plus, but never enough to earn himself a spot on the major league roster.

Jones' minor league stats.

After the 2008 season, Jones became a free agent. No matter how much they may have wanted to, it didn’t make sense for the Twins to keep him with his only positions blocked for the foreseeable future by former-MVP Justin Morneau and the resurgent Michael Cuddyer.

The Pirates, who have desperately lacked power since Bay’s departure, took a flier on the free swinging lefty.

Jones flourished during Spring Training with the team, but with proven major leaguers (and also left-handed hitters) Eric Hinske and Nyjer Morgan occupying reserve and starting spots, Jones was once again sent to Triple-A. He responded by hitting .307 with 18 doubles, 12 home runs, and 48 RBI in just 77 games. When the time came for the Pirates to cut ties and deal both Hinske and Morgan, they didn’t hesitate, knowing Jones’ track record and improved consistency.

On July 1, Jones was called up by the Pirates. He went 0-for-4.

The next night, he hit a home run on his way to a three hit evening. It was a sign of things to come.

Jones is the Pirate's best power option.Since that night, Jones has been the best player on the Pirate’s roster.

Batting in the third spot in the National League’s most anemic offense, Jones already has seven home runs in his first 12 games. Astonishingly, that puts him second among active Pirate’s players on the team’s home run leader board (behind just Adam LaRoche). He’s homered in his last four outings, including two dingers (one a game winner that splashed into the Allegheny River) last night. During those 12 games, Jones has raised his batting average to .313 and has recorded a hit in the last nine contests.

Jones should continue to be a good outfielder for the Pirates. While there is absolutely no way he’ll keep up this torrid pace, his minor league numbers indicate that he will continue to hit for power but suffer a significant regression in batting average in the near future. He still strikes out way too much and his on-base percentage isn’t exactly what a team desires from one of its middle of the order bats.

Still, Jones’ pop will keep him in the lineup. There’s absolutely no way the Pirates can afford to leave his game-changing power on the bench, especially since Brandon Moss has the punch of a toddler and the return of Milledge is still undecided.

Hey, sometimes all you need is an opportunity. Or a crappy team to pick you up.

(Rotoworld, Rotowire, Post & Courier, Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, Baseball America, Baseball-Reference…hire me.)


One Response

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  1. tracking back Pirate’s Quadruple-A slugger Jones mashes seven homers in 12 games…. tracking back Pirate’s Quadruple-A slugger Jones mashes seven homers in 12 games….

    July 19, 2009 at 1:04 am

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