Today is the first day in a series of amateur draft profiles coming in the next few months leading up to the 2016 MLB Draft. The early profiles in this series will focus on players that most media lists rank within a reasonable range of the Dodgers selections that I have identified as potential value selections for Los Angeles. As we get closer to the draft, I will shift the focus to names frequently link with the Dodgers and their scouting efforts.
As the Dodgers look to graduate their current 6'4 shortstop from the prospect ranks, the 2016 Draft could represent an opportunity to refill the quota with Nolan Jones. Listed at 6'4 and 200 lbs. himself, Jones is currently ranked 16th by Baseball America and 29th by MLB Pipeline and could be potentially available for the Dodgers to take in round one. Jones standouts for his overall athleticism and offensive upside, and I'm especially drawn to his potential utility at multiple positions.
Jones is one of the more physically impressive position players in the upcoming draft. He has plenty of room to add muscle to his lean frame, and could carry 215 lbs. rather comfortably in his prime. He exhibits excellent body control and agility for a player his size, possibly only lacking pure plus speed from a future tools standpoint. His overall athleticism should help him respond quickly to fix flaws in his game.
Offensively, Jones has above average bat speed and the chance for potential plus power in the future. His present swing is short to the ball and makes contact at a slight uppercut, and he has the ability to drive balls into the gaps. He has the tendency to fly open on contact and can pull off the ball, but both are correctable flaws. Jones also could stand to incorporate his lower half more into his swing.
Jones exhibits both plus range and a plus arm defensively. His hands work fine for the infield and he shouldn't need to move off shortstop for the time being. What makes Jones so intriguing defensively is that his athleticism and arm strength should allow him to work in at both third base and in the outfield during his development. Some reports, like the one from MLB Pipeline, suggest that Jones might even fit as an offensive minded second baseman.
Beyond size, it's not fair to compare Nolan Jones to Corey Seager. I do, however, entertain thoughts that Jones could be a Ben Zobrist-type if developed correctly. Like Zobrist, Jones has the offensive potential to play every day batting anywhere from second to fifth but not being confined to just one defensive position. For a club as competitive as the Dodgers, having a prospect that could break into the big leagues at any number of positions can be a greater asset than a traditional prospect. Additionally, with more emphasis being placed on positional flexibility at the big league level, Jones has the perfect toolset to capitalize on this demand.
Jones is a Virginia commit and it's still too early to suggest what his signability may be. While Virginia has a solid track record of getting top recruits on campus, Jones should go high enough to potentially buy him out of his commitment. Jones fills an immediate organizational need for toolsy position players, especially at the shortstop position, but he comes with the inherent risk of a high school player still in need of physical and offensive development. The upside of developing a player that will be an above average offensive performer at several different but plausible defensive positions may be too great a potential to pass up.
Next up: Reggie Lawson