Rockies acquire Nolan Jones from Guardians

The Guardians traded infielders Nolan Jones to the Rockies for infield prospects Juan Briton, according to a statement from Cleveland. It’s a spontaneous exchange of talented young players.

Jones, a former second-round pick, appeared on Baseball America’s 100 Best Prospects of the Game list every season from 2019-21. He’s consistently posted quality numbers in the minor leagues and posted some of the game’s highest walk rates to post top-notch on-base marks. Jones struggled a bit during his first jump at Triple-A in 2021, but still entered among BA’s top ten prospects in Cleveland this year.

The 24-year-old started the season with a triple-A, but did better at this level in his second round. In 248 plate appearances, he pitched a .276/.368/.463 line with nine home runs. The Guardians first called him out in July and he’s put his first 92 big league trips on the record. Jones only hit .244/.309/.372 while gaining a third of the time in this limited look, but his long-term profile still offers a lot of interest.

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

The Philadelphia native came on as a third baseman, though he’s seen increasing action in the corner outfield this year. Prospect evaluators have long hinted that he could be an adequate defender in the hot corner, but the position was apparently considered a long-term one in Cleveland Jose Ramirez. The Rockies already have their own franchise third baseman — albeit not one of Ramírez’s caliber — on the team Ryan McMahon. With McMahon playing elite defense in the hot corner, Jones will likely flow more directly into corner outfield and designated hitter mix. The Rockies have Charlie Blackmon for another year to split time between Right Field and DH while Chris Bryant hopefully stays healthy and locks down left field. CJ Cron is the presumptive starter at first base, but Colorado can bring Jones’ left-handed hitter into the mix alongside Cron while also keeping Blackmon off his feet more often.

Turning to Cleveland’s end of the exchange, they land an interesting lower-level prospect from an improving farming system in Colorado. Brito, who recently turned 21, spent the entire 2022 season in Low-A. He hit .286/.407/.470 with 11 homers in 497 plate appearances and walked an excellent 15.7% of his trips against a meager 14.3% strikeout percentage. Baseball America placed the Dominican native only 30th in its Colorado farm system midseason rankings, but Guardians raters are clearly far more optimistic on his top.

Brito has almost exclusively played second base in the minors. He’s not considered a particularly impressive defender or athlete, but he is a hard-hitting midfielder with an excellent minor league track record. The Guardians have prioritized players with impressive hit-to-ball skills and the ability to play a key position in defence, and Brito certainly fits into that category.

Since Brito was already eligible for the Rule 5 draft, Cleveland immediately put him on the 40-man list. The Wardens often navigate around the Rule 5 date when swapping out deep-types or players that are made more expensive through arbitration for more distant talent. However, this is not that type of movement. Both players occupy a 40-man seat and neither is within two years of reaching arbitration. Both are still eligible for minor league elections – Jones for one more year, Brito three times. Brito certainly won’t make its way into the MLB mix right away, but this is an intriguing exchange of untried young players — one that seems motivated by every team that simply values ​​the player it brings in more than the player it sends away , not through contractual arrangements or roster changes.

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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