Detroit Tigers: Are You Ready for JaCoby Jones in Center Field?

Now that Cameron Maybin is gone and the Detroit Tigers center field position is available, JaCoby Jones has officially decided he wants the job.

The young Detroit Tigers speedster has been playing hard in the Fall League in Scottsdale, Arizona with the hopes of having the spot in the depths of Comerica Park when the 2017 season begins.

While the young Jones works hard to make it to the Big Leagues, he’s up against a bit of competition and plenty of questions from the fans.

In an article from Anthony Fenech with the Detroit Free Press, we fans learn that Jones wants the centerfield spot so badly that he has even taken on his former teammate’s number four. Jones said: “I was like, ‘That’s the number I can use next year, since Maybin’s not going to be here. So I guess I’ll have to call (clubhouse manager Jim Schmakel) to see if I can get No. 4.'”

Aug 28, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Detroit Tigers center fielder Anthony Gose (12) catches a ball for an out during the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Right now, Jones has some competition, not stiff competition. Just, competition. It comes in the form of Anthony Gose and Tyler Collins. Both men have more experience at the position, but Gose and Collins have shown their weaknesses at the position and at the plate. As Collins and Gose have had several chances in the outfield with the Tigers, Jones has only played five games in centerfield in Detroit.

While Collins and Gose have had several chances to show their skills in the outfield with the Tigers, Jones has only played five games in center field in Detroit. Jones played in center field in 57 games while in Toledo in 2016. His fielding percentage in Toledo was .984 and it was 1.000 in Detroit.

In all likelihood, Anthony Gose will not see time in the outfield in the Major Leagues. The battle for the position will most likely be shared by Collins and Jones. The fact that Collins adds a left-handed bat as well as speed to the Tigers’ lineup. Collins had a few memorable moments in centerfield, including a play in late July at Fenway Park. On July 27, Collins threw out Sandy Leon at home plate in a high-speed double play.

Even though Collins had his unfortunate moment with the Tigers, he was able to clean up his act. He did finish the season with an OBP of .305 and SLG of .382. In the Minor Leagues, he actually had worse numbers than he had in Detroit.

JaCoby Jones, on the other hand, showed worse numbers in his handful of games in Detroit. During 2016, he split his time between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo. In Erie, he had an OBP of .393 and SLG of .597. In Toledo, the numbers dropped off to .309 OBP and .356 SLG.

What is nice to see with Jones is his performance in Scottsdale. His .348 batting average with five stolen bases is commendable. He seems to be comfortably in his element, stealing bases and owning center field.

If Jones wants to take Maybin’s former spot in the outfield, Jones will have to work incredibly hard to prove he can handle it. Jones will be 25 in May. Interestingly, he is only two months younger than Nick Castellanos, who has played in Detroit for three full seasons now. Hopefully, Jones will develop the maturity that Castellanos showed in the past season. If he can, center field could be his spot to win or lose.

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