Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/16/14
Orioles_vs_royals_9d53

In the weekly Wednesday chat, one of the popular subjects was the Braves pursuit of Baltimore outfielder Adam Jones. According to reports, Atlanta has been trying to land Jones for the better part of a few months, using Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado as the bait, while the Orioles demand a lot more in return for their center fielder. A segment of Braves fans seem to be offended by the asking price for Jones, believing that the Orioles demands for a guy with a .319 OBP is unwarranted.

But, here’s the thing with trading for a guy like Adam Jones – you aren’t paying for what he has been, you’re paying for what he could be.

The 2008-2011 version of Adam Jones has been a slightly above average player, not the star he was projected to be as a prospect. As has been noted by Atlanta fans many times, his low on base percentage has held him back from being an offensive force, and he’s shown few signs of improving his plate discipline to date. Additionally, UZR hasn’t exactly loved his defense in center field, so he’s topped out at +2.9 WAR in his best season to date.

If that’s all Adam Jones was, then Braves fans would be right that Baltimore was asking too much for his final two years of team control. However, the Orioles see potential for significant improvement from their center fielder, and history backs up their point of view.

To show this general skillset’s potential, I grabbed a list of all player seasons from the last 10 years where the hitter was 25 or younger, swung at 50% or more of the pitches they were thrown, and posted an ISO of at least .150 (to eliminate the middle infielders and catchers who are simply in the sport for their glovework). This group is essentially a collection of athletic players who got to the show based on their physical skills, but showed a significant lack of polish early in their career.

Including Jones, there were 30 names on the list. Two of the players on the list were rookies last year (Mark Trumbo and Freddie Freeman) and three more are still about the same age as Jones (Pablo Sandoval, Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch) so they don’t really help us understand how players perform in the future after showing this kind of skillset early in their career. So, throwing them out, that leaves us with 24 hitters with roughly comparable offensive skillsets. Here’s how they break down.

Future stars:

Miguel Cabrera
Ryan Braun
Robinson Cano
Adrian Beltre
Carlos Gonzalez
Matt Kemp
Brandon Phillips
Carl Crawford
Matt Holliday

Quality Regulars:

Aramis Ramirez
Justin Morneau
Vernon Wells
Corey Hart
Hunter Pence

Decent Role Players:

Juan Uribe
Jeff Francoeur
Jay Gibbons
Joe Crede

Busts:

Jorge Cantu
Mike Jacobs
Angel Berroa
Jose Lopez
Corey Patterson
Kevin Kouzmanoff

Of the 24, 14 developed into All-Star caliber players, producing far more value than they had shown during their raw, early career performances. It’s probably fair to say that Jones isn’t likely to turn into a Miguel Cabrera or a Ryan Braun, as they’re not really great comparisons for his overall package of skills, but it is worth noting that both of them were aggressive hitters who chased a lot of pitches early in their careers. Likewise, while Matt Holliday might not strike you as a similar player to Jones, the development of his walk rate over the years shows how aggressive young hitters don’t necessarily remain aggressive as they age.

Of the guys who do fit a more similar profile to Jones in terms of athletic ability and undisciplined approach at the plate at a young age – the best overall comparisons for Jones – we see Cano, Crawford, Beltre, Gonzalez, Kemp, Phillips, Ramirez, Wells, Hart, Pence, Francoeur, and Patterson. You’ll note a really high success rate among those players, with only the latter two having failed to develop into fairly consistent quality regulars.

Guys who become regulars in their early-20s due to their athleticism often lag behind when getting judged by their on base percentage. However, their broad base of skills allow them to be useful players while still developing, and with more experience, their overall performances improve, sometimes dramatically.

When the Orioles look at Adam Jones, they’re not looking at a +2 to +3 win guy with a low OBP who needs work judging balls off the bat – they’re looking at a guy with the potential to become a premium player at an up-the-middle position. And if they’re going to give up that potential, they’re going to need to get some serious upside in return.

Unfortunately for the Braves, Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado aren’t exactly upside plays. They’re both useful pieces who could help a contender by filling in a gap here or there, but neither offer the hope of becoming much more than what they already are. They’re finished products, or something close to it at least. Jones is an untapped well whose performances up to this point show a glimmer of what he could become if he continues to develop.

Given the Orioles present circumstances, that’s exactly the kind of player they need. Two useful players with limited potential aren’t going to make them winners. They need stars to build around, and while Jones isn’t one yet, he very well could become one. If the Orioles are going to part with not only his present value but the hope of what he could become, a potential buyer will need to compensate them for surrendering that unrealized potential.

You can’t judge Adam Jones’ value to the Orioles by what he’s been to date. His value is based on what he could be, and what he could be is worth a lot more than Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens.

MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Penguins having three more players tested for mumps

Jay Cutler is not the answer for the Titans

Josh Smith released by Detroit Pistons in surprising move

13 amazing NFL stats from Week 16

JJ Watt's bloody face defines 2014 campaign

Dominic Raiola insists he didn't intentionally stomp opponent

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Jets call themselves the best 3-12 team in NFL history

Cam Newton calls out 'classless' Panthers fans

Report: 49ers to part ways with Harbaugh after season finale

Brad Stevens shoots down rumors he's headed to Hoosiers

Jameis Winston cleared in code of conduct case

Sherman: Patrick Peterson would be benched on Seahawks

Darren Sproles' wife Michel fires back at Eagles critics

Steve Smith expects 'couch quarterback' criticism

WATCH: Tennessee walk-on gets scholarship as bowl gift

Raiders player gives game check to young girl in need

Game of the week: Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers

Yankees pay for education of slain officer's children

Breaking up the Brooklyn Nets

Brady: Edelman might be Pat's Most Dependable Player

Who can fight off the Golden State Warriors in the West?

NFL flexes Bengals-Steelers into 'Sunday Night Football' slot

Miami Dolphins electing to keep Joe Philbin a smart decision

Coughlin tells Beckham Jr to tone down TD celebrations

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Sproles' wife fires back at Eagles critics

Game of the week: Lions vs. Packers

Breaking up the Brooklyn Nets

13 amazing NFL stats from Week 16

JJ Watt's bloody face defines 2014 campaign

Jets claim to be best 3-12 team ever

10 takeaways from NFL Week 16

Cam Newton calls out 'classless' Panthers fans

Raiola stomps on Bears player's ankle

Bears interested in Jim Harbaugh?

Shanahan to return to 2015?

Browns interested in drafting Mariota?

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.