Entering Spring Training, one of the biggest issues facing the team was finding an everyday centerfielder after trading away Cameron Maybin in the offseason. The competition seemed to be led by Tyler Collins, with Alex Presley, Anthony Gose, Jacoby Jones, and winter acquisition Mikie Mahtook among the other names tossed around. However, Gose is no longer on the 40 man roster, Collins is hitting just .194 through 13 games, and it is Jones who has emerged as the front runner in the competition to be the starting centerfielder come April 3rd.
Jones was a late season call up for Detroit last season, playing in 13 games and had experience playing all over the field at various levels of professional baseball. Jones’ easiest path to the major leagues would be through success in centerfield. Nick Castellanos had a successful season last year at third base and is likely not moving anytime soon as he is just 2 months older than Jones.
In baseball, if someone can hit, there will always be a spot in a lineup for them somewhere. Jacoby Jones has certainly done his part to earn that lineup spot so far this spring. Through 13 games, Jones is batting .346 with 2 home runs. On Thursday against the Atlanta Braves, Jones also flashed his speed by stealing 2 bases. While it is true that these numbers are “just Spring Training,” the numbers Jones has put up so far are impressive at the major league level.
As cuts begin to be made in the last two weeks of Spring Training and more players are sent to the minor leagues, Jones will get more of a look and will need to continue to prove himself. If he continues to play the way he has this spring, it will be difficult for Brad Ausmus and the Detroit Tigers front office to justify not keeping Jacoby Jones as their starting centerfielder.
Jones has performed the way the Tigers envisioned when they acquired him from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015 and will be expected to continue his stellar performance. Given his youth and inexperience at the major league level, it should not come as a surprise if Jones begins the season with AAA Toledo, but if he continues to play the way he has, when the Detroit Tigers take the field in Chicago on April 3rd, Jacoby Jones should be in centerfield in the bottom of the first inning.