Buoyed by a successful showing in 2021, Greg Jones went into 2022 with a chance to improve his standing in the Rays organization and increase his chances to reach the major leagues.
Instead, the 24-year-old shortstop played his way into limbo.
The 2019 first-round pick out of UNC Wilmington fell flat at Double-A Montgomery, hitting .238/.318/.392 with eight home runs and 37 stolen bases in 79 games.
With a strikeout rate that spiked to 36% and time missed to injury, Jones left the Rays with a difficult 40-man roster decision ahead of the Nov. 15 deadline to exempt players from the Rule 5 draft.
The Rays decided they weren’t ready to give up on the talented Jones.
“Greg had a tough year. I think he’d be the first one to tell you that,’’ Rays general manager Peter Bendix said. “But the tools, the ability, that’s all still there. And it’s not always a linear path to get to the big leagues and be a superstar.
“There’s ups and downs, and even though this year was tough and he struggled to make contact at times, he also showed the ability to make adjustments.
“He still has the tools that made him such a high pick in the first place, and I think we still believe in him.’’
Jones has played only his preferred shortstop in his three pro seasons, but the combination of the Rays’ middle infield depth and his 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame has raised the question of whether a shift to the outfield could be in the works.
“It’s always hovered around him, but it’s not something that we’re considering at this point,’’ Bendix said. “I’m sure we’ll re-evaluate things in spring training, as we do with all players, but that didn’t really factor in at this point.’’
— In addition to Greg Jones, the Rays added for other prospects to their 40-man roster: righthander Taj Bradley, third basemen Curtis Mead and Osleivis Basabe and reliever Colby White. White is recovering from April Tommy John surgery.
— Bendix said the success that Bradley, 21 and Mead, 22, had for Triple-A Durham at such young ages was an encouraging sign and that both will come into spring training and compete for major league jobs.
— As part of the roster trimming to accommodate the prospects, the Rays traded righthander Javy Guerra, who was their minor league reliever of the year, and lost outfielder Bligh Madris on waivers to the Tigers.
— Righthander Evan Reifert, acquired from the Brewers in November 2021 for Mike Brosseau, was named Arizona Fall League reliever of the year.