Of all the footprints 21-year-old third baseman Nolan Jones is leaving as he advances through the minor league system, what stands out the most are his consistently impressive on-base percentages.
That’s a product of Jones’ continuing maturity as a hitter and his unerring strike-zone judgment, two traits that the Philadelphia-area high school product had when the Indians drafted him in the second round in 2016.
Considered one of the top prep bats in that class, Jones has been exceedingly efficient at getting on base since turning pro. That includes this year when he boasted a .410 on-base percentage through 116 games. That equaled his career mark.
Prior to his July 5 promotion to Double-A Akron, his .435 OBP at high Class A Lynchburg led led the Carolina League by a wide margin, which is why league managers recognized him as having the best strike-zone judgment in Best Tools balloting.
The lefthanded-hitting Jones had hit .275/.410/.443 this season with 14 home runs and 87 walks.
Jones’ performance had been steady year over year. His lowest OBP in pro ball came in his 2016 pro debut, when he reaches 39 percent of the time in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
Since the day he was drafted, Jones has been considered one of the top prospects in the organization. He has climbed up the ranking from No. 8 all the way to No. 1.
Given Jones’ play this season, It’s not difficult to envision a path for him to a role in Cleveland.
The Indians are not expected to pick up the 2020 club option on Jason Kipnis. Indians officials believe third baseman Jose Ramirez’s best position is actually second base, which could eventually create a spot for Jones, and his plus grade arm, at third base.
— Shortstop Tyler Freeman, perhaps the best pure hitter in the system, has a case for the Indians’ minor league player of the year. He hit .308 through 112 games at a pair of Class A stops.
— Triple-A Columbus slugging first baseman Bobby Bradley led the International League with a career-high 30 homers.