Prospect Review: Nolan Jones, Third Base, Cleveland Indians

AN ALL-AROUND ATHLETE

Nolan Jones, a former hockey standout turned baseball phenom, is now in AA for the Cleveland Indians. Nolan has great physical attributes at 6 feet and 4 inches weighing in at a stout 185 pounds. While he is 21 years of age, there is room to grow for this top prospect. He has a tremendous amount of power matched with great discipline. Nolan led the Minors with 96 walks the past season. That leads to a walk rate of roughly 18% between A+ and AA. For reference, look at this chart below to see the leader board in walk rate this past season.

Patience Is a Virtue

NamePABB%K%
Mike Trout60018.3 %20.0 %
Yasmani Grandal63217.2 %22.0 %
Alex Bregman69017.2 %12.0 %
Daniel Vogelbach55816.5 %26.7 %
Rhys Hoskins70516.5 %24.5 %
Juan Soto65916.4 %20.0 %
Carlos Santana68615.7 %15.7 %
Max Muncy58915.3 %25.3 %
Josh Donaldson65915.2 %23.5 %
Bryce Harper68214.5 %26.1 %

Courtesy of Fangraphs

Mike Trout is the king of the MLB in regards to walk rate at 18.3%. Which is a full point higher than the next closest batter. For comparison, Nolan Jones had a walk rate of 17.9% in two levels last year. Well the theory of regression will come as he gets into more difficult levels. He should project into the latter half of this list. I could see him walking around 12-15% in the MLB when he makes it. What is worrisome about Jones is his strikeout percentage. He has trended in the upper 20% group with his strikeouts. In the list from FanGraphs above, there are some talented hitters in that group as well. However, this first comparison sheds light on the fact that Nolan Jones is trending in the correct direction, but there’s more.

RAW POWER: LOTS OF RAW POWER

Nolan Jones is in an elite class in terms of raw power. In which, he grades out at a 70/80. With a rating that high, he is well above-average in that category. Also, he graded out at an 80/80 in terms of his pitch selection, which is shown in his walk rate. Pairing above-average power with elite pitch selection seems like a dream for any team. However, his bat control is on the lower end of the spectrum at 40/80. That doesn’t mean that he can’t develop the ability to hit for a higher average, it just seems unlikely. I mentioned this in an earlier article about Nick Madrigal. There is a higher percentage chance that a contact hitter develops power, instead of a power hitter developing into a contact hitter. Nevertheless, Nolan Jones is no slouch at the plate and you can see that from his stats below.

SeasonTeamPAHRRBIAVGwOBAwRC+
2016(R)134090.2570.358118
2017(A-)2654330.3170.424171
2018(A)38916490.2790.395147
2018(A+)1303170.2980.421162
2019(A+)3247410.2860.407157
2019(AA)2118220.2530.378147

Courtesy of FanGraphs

THE OUTLOOK FOR NOLAN JONES IN THE MLB

Nolan Jones will have a year before he is fully MLB ready. His first taste of the show could come this season, depending on if there is a season. Otherwise, he will look for a 2021 appearance wearing the Indians’ uniform. With that in mind, he still has room to grow before it is clear enough to give an outlook on him. However, I will still tell you what I foresee in this power swinging lefty’s future.

Predicting Nolan’s MLB Stats

While it is never easy to predict stats for future Major Leaguers, there is some certainty in the MiLB stats. These stats can give us an idea of where a future player may fit in with a range. Three main stats stick out to me from Nolan.

wRC+

Nolan Jones has been rather impressive in terms of his wRC+ in the minors. His range has been between 118-171 wRC+. That speaks good fortune for Nolan. His average wRC+ has been a 150.33 across his 6 different levels/seasons. I believe that this will get higher over time. He has the potential to add some power numbers on top of his walk numbers to create something truly phenomenal.

Walk Rate

As I mentioned earlier in the article, Nolan led the Minors in walks with 96 this past season. His walk rate was 17.9%. You rarely see such a disciplined approach from a 21-year-old, let alone even a veteran in the MLB. This walk rate should let him develop into a solid hitter over time. He will support a high OBP/wOBA/wRC+ because of his eye at the plate. Those are all key ingredients for success as a ballplayer.

ISO

Throughout his MiLB career, his ISO has seemed to improve at each level with a couple of exceptions. This is one area that I am cautious about him. His ISO has been between .083-.213. Traditionally, an average ISO in the MLB is .140. Nolan has been above that, but in the minors of course. For him to hit in a .180 range in the minors, says he could be average in the MLB around .140. While he did hit a .213 ISO in AA this past year, that is something to watch. A player like him, you want him to hit above that .200 mark in the MLB.

Swing Analysis

Nolan has a pretty good swing, reminiscent of Bryce Harper at times with less violence. He stands tall at the plate with a leg kick to give him the proper timing. It seems that his leg kick could be more efficient because he drops his foot late in some sequences. The late foot drop will lead to getting beat by a fastball above 95. Normally, a batter will load and have their front foot down before the pitch comes in. This extra split second will allow the batter to catch up to the higher velocity pitches. Other than that, there is a good amount of rotation in his swing. That can cause some issues with staying on balls and making the most solid contact, which could display his contact issues at times. Nolan said it best in an interview with FanGraphs, “I had a little bit of a rock-back when I was loading. That created a flaw. It kind of had me spinning, being too rotational.” I think his swing looks good and with some minimal improvement, we could see him make a tremendous improvement in his strikeout rate and batting average.

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Final Outlook for Nolan Jones

Nolan appears ready for the MLB in a couple of years. I see him batting in the range of a .260/.380/.450 – .280/.400/.475 line. He has the power to hit 30 home runs, but 20-25 is a safe range for him. His wRC+ will be in the 110-140 range. I think there is potential for him and with a couple of tweaks, he will be an impact player for the Cleveland Indians.

Nolan Jones Projection
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