With the San Francisco Giants in last place in their division, the 2017 season has become a year of evaluation. Injuries to starting first baseman Brandon Belt and rookie Christian Arroyo have opened the door for infielder Ryder Jones.
Looking at his numbers, Jones, 23, appears to be overmatched in the big leagues. In 34 games this season, he’s hitting just .192, with two home runs and a .263 on-base percentage. His WAR is at -0.6.
The numbers are a bit skewed since Jones went 1-for-21 in his first stint in the big leagues.
But he’s done much better since his second call up on Aug. 3, showing a quick bat and a little bit of power. He even took the tough Chicago Cubs’ righty Jake Arrieta deep on Aug. 7.
In his second stint in the big leagues, he’s hitting .229 with two home runs in 83 at-bats.
But looking at his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play), it’s at .304, right around the league average.
Despite his success in AAA-Sacramento this season, a hitter-friendly league where he hit .312 with 13 homers and 44 RBI in 64 games, Jones still has a lot to prove. He struggled in AA and A-ball and has to show he can take it to the next level in the major leagues.
The Giants picked Jones in the second round of the 2013 draft. He was going to play baseball at Stanford after high school (with Giants outfielder Austin Slater) but opted to sign with the Giants instead.
Right out of the gate, Jones was ninth-place in batting average in the Arizona Rookie League in 2013.
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The next year, he got demoted from A-Augusta to Salem-Keizer after a long slump in June and July. Combined in the two leagues, Jones hit just .225 with 10 home runs and 67 RBI.
Jones came to the Bay Area in 2015, playing for the San Jose Giants (A). There, he hit .268, with six home runs, 29 doubles, and 47 RBI in 105 games.
But in 2016, Jones flashed some power in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League. At AA-Richmond, he led the team in home runs and RBI as the regular third baseman.
John Sickels of Minorleaguebaseball.com offers a good summary of Jones’ career thus far:
"Quite honestly he did not show much with the bat until this year; the numbers were mediocre and the scouting reports concentrated more on his strong throwing arm and overall work ethic than his hitting ability; his bat speed in particular was critiqued as mediocre.However, things have changed this year. He has been much more selective; he’s already matched his career-high in walks. He is hitting the ball in the air more often and tapping his power much more consistently. At age 23, he’s young enough for the changes to be real and not mere statistical flukes, and the Giants do have a track record of helping similar hitters develop."
Sickels adds Jones is a defensive liability at third base and his best position is third base. His report also says Jones is expected to be a role player with a little power in his bat. And so far, that’s what he appears to be, as he’s not carrying the team offensively and is hitting mostly eighth.
To make matters worse for Jones, with Arroyo expected to be the Giants’ third baseman of the future and Belt to return at first base next year, the outlook for Jones on the Giants looks bleak.
But hey–it’s baseball.
Anything can happen at any time.