Rockies Acquire Nolan Jones From Guardians

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The Guardians traded an infielder Nolan Jones to the Rockies for infield prospect John Brito, according to an announcement from Cleveland. It’s an out-of-the-blue exchange of talented young players.

A former second-round pick, Jones appeared on Baseball America’s list of the game’s top 100 prospects each season from 2019-21. He consistently posted quality marks in the minor leagues, posting some of the game’s highest walk percentages to earn the best on-base marks. Jones struggled a bit on his first crack at Triple-A in 2021, but still entered BA’s top ten Cleveland prospects this year.

The 24-year-old started the season back at Triple-A, but outperformed in his second go-around at that level. In 248 at bats, he set a .276/.368/.463 line with nine home runs. The Guardians first called him up in July and he posted his first 92 big league trips to the plate. Jones only hit .244/.309/.372 while hitting a strike a third of the time in that limited look, but there’s still plenty to be intrigued about his profile for the long haul.

Jones has a score of .252/.361/.443 over 655 at bats at the Triple-A level. He walked to the saucer in 13.7% of his trips there, while hitting 22 home runs and 36 doubles. A lofty 28.4% strikeout percentage raises some questions about his bat-to-ball skills, but the combination of power and plate discipline make him an intriguing addition to the Rox.

The Philadelphia native emerged as a third baseman, though he saw more and more action in the corner outfield this year. Prospect evaluators have long suggested he could be a suitable defender in the hot corner, but the Cleveland position was clearly one for the long haul by Jose Ramirez. The Rockies already have a franchise third baseman of their own – albeit not one of Ramírez’ caliber – in Ryan MacMahon. With McMahon playing elite defense in the hot corner, Jones will likely be more mindful of the outfield in the corner and designated batter mix. The Rockies have Charlie Blackmon for one more year to split time between right field and DH, while Chris Bryant will hopefully stay healthy and close out left field. CJ Cron is the presumed starter at first base, but Colorado can spin Jones’ left-handed bat into the mix alongside Cron, while also keeping Blackmon on his feet more often.

Returning to Cleveland’s side of the trade, they land an interesting lower-level prospect of an improving Colorado farming system. Brito, who recently turned 21, spent the entire 2022 season in Low-A. He hit .286/.407/.470 with 11 home runs to 497 at bats, hitting an outstanding 15.7% on his trips against a meager 14.3% strikeout percentage. Baseball America placed the Dominican Republic-born only 30th on the Colorado farm system’s midseason rankings, but Guardians’ reviewers are clearly much more bullish on his upside.

Brito has almost exclusively played second base in the minors. He is not considered a particularly impressive defenseman or athlete, but he is a switch-hitting middle infielder with an excellent record in the minor league. The Guardians have prioritized players with impressive bat-to-ball skills and the ability to play key defensive position, and Brito certainly fits that mold.

With Brito already eligible for the Rule 5 draft, Cleveland immediately selected him for the 40-man roster. The Guardians often navigate roster turnover around the Rule 5 date, as they trade out depth types or arbitratored players for more distant talent. However, this is not such a move. Both players occupy a 40-man spot, and neither is within two years of reaching arbitration. Both can still be elected to the minor leagues – Jones for one more year, Brito three times. Brito certainly won’t immediately feature in the MLB mix, but this marks a fascinating trade of unproven young players – one seemingly motivated by each team simply valuing the player they bring in more than the player they send off, not by contractual terms or grid rearrangement.

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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