Rockies buy Nolan Jones from Guardians

Rockies buy Nolan Jones from Guardians

The Guardians traded their infielder nolan jones in the Rockies for an inside perspective Juan Brito, according to a Cleveland announcement. It’s an unexpected exchange of talented young players.

Jones, a former second-round pick, was on Baseball America’s Top 100 list of prospects in the game every season from 2019-21. He consistently put up quality numbers in the minor leagues, posting some of the walk rates the highest in the game to get top ratings on base. Jones struggled a bit in his first Triple-A crack in 2021, but still entered BA’s top ten prospects in Cleveland this year.

The 24-year-old started the season at Triple-A but performed better on his second come-around at the level. In 248 plate appearances, he established a .276/.368/.463 line with nine homers. The Guardians first called him up in July and he won his first 92 trips to the major league. Jones only hit .244 / .309 / .372 while hitting a third of the time in this limited look, but there’s still plenty to intrigue in his long-term profile.

Jones owns a mark of .252/.361/.443 in 655 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. He walked in 13.7% of his trips to the flat there while connecting on 22 home runs and 36 doubles. A high strikeout rate of 28.4% raises questions about his bat-to-ball skills, but the combination of power and plate discipline makes him an intriguing addition for the Rox.

The Philadelphia native arrived as a third baseman, though he’s seen more and more action in the corner’s outfield this year. Prospect evaluators have long suggested he could be an adequate defender in the hot corner, but the position has obviously been pronounced long-term in Cleveland by Jose Ramirez. The Rockies already have their own franchise third baseman — though not of Ramírez’s caliber — in Ryan McMahon. With McMahon playing elite defense in the hot corner, Jones will likely consider the corner outfield and designated hitter mix more immediately. The Rockies have Charlie Blackman for another year to split the time between right field and DH, while Kris Bryant hopefully staying healthy and locking down left field. CJ Cron is the presumptive starter at first base, but Colorado can swing Jones’ southpaw bat into the mix alongside Cron while keeping Blackmon on his feet more often.

As for the end of the Cleveland trade, they land an attractive lower-level prospect from an improving Colorado agricultural system. Brito, who recently turned 21, has spent the entire 2022 season in Low-A. He hit .286 / .407 / .470 with 11 home runs in 497 plate appearances, walking an excellent 15.7 percent of his trips against a meager 14.3 percent strikeout percentage. Baseball America only placed the Dominican Republic native at 30th in their Colorado Farm System midseason rankings, but Guardians evaluators are clearly much more optimistic about his upside.

Brito played almost exclusively at second base in the minors. He’s not considered a particularly impressive defenseman or athlete, but he’s a center fielder with an excellent record in the minor leagues. Guardians have prioritized players with impressive batting skills and the ability to play key defensive position, and Brito certainly fits that mould.

With Brito already eligible for the Rule 5 draft, Cleveland immediately selected him from the 40-man roster. Guardians often navigate the roster rotation around the Rule 5 date as they trade depth types or players who become more expensive via arbitrage for talent further afield. It’s not that kind of move, though. Both players occupy a 40-man spot, and neither is within two years of arbitration. Both can still be opted for the minor leagues – Jones for one more year, Brito three times. Brito surely won’t consider the MLB mix just yet, but it does mark a fascinating exchange of unproven young players – one seemingly driven by each team simply valuing the player they bring in more than the player they ship, not through contractual arrangements or a reorganization of the workforce.

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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