Minor League Player
By Josh Boyd
Before Andruw Jones homered in his first two at-bats for the Braves in the 1996 World Series at Yankee Stadium and gained mainstream attention as a future star, he was a two-time winner of Baseball Americas Minor League Player of the Year award in 1995-96.
A native of Curacao, Netherlands Antilles, Jones was discovered by Braves scout Givanni Viceisza as a 15-year-old in a tournament in Puerto Rico. His unmistakable tools quickly gained him notice as the top prospect in baseball.
His five-tool potential was first unveiled in the summer of 1994 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Paul Snyder, the Braves assistant general manager at the time, remembers his first impressions of Jones.
"It was his first time at bat, and he hit a ball to right-center. He came around first at full speed, saw the outfielder come up with the ball and just hit the brakes. He skidded standing up," Snyder said. "The only other time in my life I had seen something like that was in 1960 in Philadelphia at Shibe Park."
The player Jones reminded Snyder of was Roberto Clemente.
"It just gave me a special feeling," Snyder said. "I knew then he was something special."
His breakthrough 1995 season launched his meteoric ascent to Atlanta and drew more comparisons: Griffey, Mays, Aaron. In what was considered the greatest minor league offensive performance since Jose Cardenal in 1961, Jones hit .277-25-100 with 41 doubles and 56 stolen bases as an 18-year-old at Class A Macon. In addition to stamping his name on his first Minor League Player of the Year award, Jones became baseballs top prospect.
Jones began 1996 at Class A Durham, where he was hitting .313-17-43 with 16 steals by the all-star break. Promotions sent him through Double-A Greenville and Triple-A Richmond before the Braves finally found a level that could hold himthe National League. He finished the season as the Braves everyday left fielder in Atlantas disappointing six-game World Series loss.
Not including the .400-2-6 he hit against the Yankees in October, Jones combined to hit .316-39-105 with 33 steals at all four levels.
He continued his success as a center fielder, improving upon his status as one of baseballs future stars each season and becoming one of the best defensive players in the games history. While Jones teases the Braves with his unlimited ceiling, many think the best is yet to come for the 24-year-old. Thats a lot to say considering he already has three Gold Gloves, three 30-home-run seasons and an All-Star Game appearance on his resume.
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