Nolan Jones is quickly becoming one of my favorite Colorado Rockies.
I’ve been high on him ever since the team acquired him from the Cleveland Guardians in the offseason. The prospect of a left-handed power bat with defensive versatility that was big-league-ready was a worthwhile trade in my book and I was eager for him to get a chance should the opportunity arise.
After playing 45 games this season, Jones has turned in a solid .275/.359/.517 batting line with nine home runs and 22 RBI. Additionally, he has posted a .374 wOBA and 121 wRC+, both of which have been propelled by a .402 BABIP and a .235 ISO which have played a role in his success.
He hasn’t been without his shortcomings this season, however, as strikeouts continue to be an area of concern. His 34.7% strikeout rate is the highest since he had a 36.6% rate in his first year of professional ball in 2016. His 10.2% walk rate is also the second lowest of his professional career, just higher than his first big league stint in 2022. He showed much more promise in both categories in Triple-A Albuquerque, so there is hope that he can figure it out at the big-league level.
He’s also going to need to figure out how to not hit some many ground balls almost 50% of the time, and instead increase his line drive rates to complement a fairly consistent fly ball rate.
Now that we’ve addressed some of these factors of his game, let me explain what I’m enjoying from Jones this season.
Power for Days
The best thing that Jones has brought to the plate has been his offensive prowess, particularly in the power department. Entering Wednesday he has a total of nine home runs, all of which you can revisit in the video below.
Home runs are always great, but what has caught many fans' eyes when it comes to Nolan Jones's home runs is that he is cranking out unbelievable power that is a sight to behold. Since the implementation of Statcast in 2015, Jones is tied for second with Joc Pederson for most home runs over 450 feet in a single season by a rookie with four. He trails only the rookie seasons of Pete Alonso in 2019 and Aaron Judge in 2017, both of whom had eight.
Even with those four home runs, it has felt like most, if not all, of Jones’s home runs could have fit into that category. The reason for this is that his exit velocity is one of the best in all of baseball. He ranks in the 92nd percentile in max exit velocity and on home runs his average exit velocity of 109.7 mph and average distance of 440 feet both lead the Majors among players with eight or more home runs. He’s proving that he is a prolific power hitter that can make a huge impact with the bat. Despite having 204 fewer at-bats, Jones is now just six home runs behind Ryan McMahon who leads the team with 15.
A new Mr. Late Night?
What makes the home runs so impactful and notable for Jones is the fact that they are mainly coming later in the game where they make an impact. In fact, of his nine home runs, he has three home runs that have tied the game, two go-ahead homers, and one walk-off. Six of his home runs have come in the sixth inning or later.
Etched in the lore of the Colorado Rockies is Seth Smith, affectionately known as Mr. Late Night because of his ability to hit late in games. Jones is showing inklings of the same type of ability with that clutch gene.
As we can see in the table above, from the sixth inning on Jones has been fairly successful. Aside from the seventh, he has an OPS of over 1.000 in each back-half inning and a strong batting average. He has been a huge boost for the second half of the lineup typically hitting in the 5-7 spots in the batting order.
Speaking of clutch, it’s worth checking out this table below.
Yes, he needs to improve his performance when the Rockies are behind, but so does the rest of the team. However, he’s either helping keep the foot on the gas or delivering a solid hit in important situations. He still has room to grow, but for a rookie, these are promising stats when the pressure mounts.
Perhaps more encouraging is the fact that Jones isn’t seeing drastic splits when he plays. It’s natural for a left-handed batter to hit well against the opposite hand and struggle against lefties. Such is not the case for Jones as he is proving he can hit both equally. While facing right-handed pitching, he is batting .277/.371/.525 with six home runs and 15 RBI. Facing lefties he is batting .292/.333/.500 with three home runs and seven RBI. He does strike out a bit more left-on-left, but it’s not a drastic difference.
Even better, it’s been pointed out recently that Jones hasn’t fallen victim to the Coors Effect as much this year.
Nolan Jones at Coors Field:— Fuzzy (@fuzzyfromyt) July 25, 2023
Nolan Jones on the road:
He's also hitting .292 vs LHP..
Lastly, I want to touch on his defense quickly. While he is still adjusting and learning how to be an effective outfielder or even first basemen, Jones is learning quickly on the job. One thing is clear though, he has a cannon attached to his shoulder. He currently ranks in the 100th percentile in arm strength according to Statcast and his seven outfield assists are the fourth-most in the National League. While he has a -2 Outs Above Average, he does have one Defensive Run Saved in the outfield and a 4.0 UZR/150. He’s not to the defensive level of Brenton Doyle, but Jones is holding his own as a solid outfielder.
Overall, Jones is turning into a promising player that can make an impact for the Rockies. Hopefully, the team makes the necessary moves over the coming days to make it possible for him to play every day for the rest of the year, but in the limited sample size, he’s showing off that he has some of that mojo the team needs.
If you’re already looking ahead to the 2024 season, you’ve got a place to start with the Spring Training schedules announced. Games will start February 23 against the Arizona Diamondbacks and at the moment seems like a fairly standard spring for the Rockies.
In a way, the Rockies were the original model for the use of an opener in 2012, but 2023 is proving it could make an effective comeback for the team. After seeing some success against the Nationals with Karl Kauffmann, the Rockies could begin using openers to help the young arms get reps and experience in the game without having to worry about “starting” but rather working as bulk pitchers.
On the Farm
It was a back-and-forth affair but the Isotopes came out on top thanks to a go-ahead two-run homer by Daniel Montano in the seventh inning. Wynton Bernard had a three-hit night including an inside-the-park home run, while Coco Montes went 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles and two RBI.
Kyle Datres, Warming Bernabel, and Julio Carreras had two hits apiece while Hunter Goodman managed to drive in three runs despite going 0-for-2. Colten Schmidt started on the mound and lasted just 1 1⁄3 innings after giving up eight runs on nine hits. Mike Ruff ate up 4 1⁄3 innings and gave up the other three runs to the Fisher Cats.
Spokane scattered seven hits but only scored on a solo home run from Nic Kent in the top of the ninth inning. Cullen Kafka started the game on the mound and allowed two runs over five innings with six strikeouts. Keegan James struggled in his two innings of relief to suffer the loss, allowing five runs on five hits.
Bryant Betancourt led the way offensively for Fresno, driving in all three runs on a pair of hits. Additionally, three other Grizzlies, including Dyan Jorge, had two-hit nights. Michael Prosecky started on the mound and allowed one run over five innings to earn the win while the bullpen allowed just three hits over the final four frames.
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