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Top prospect countdown: #1 Jahmai Jones

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Travis Berg

Jahmai Jones-OF

I am a huuuuuuuuuge Jahmai Jones fan, I even went as far as making my first post as part of the masthead of Halos Heaven about Jones. In a system that still lacks a plethora of high-end talent, Jahmai offers some hope in that aspect. Jahmai was the guy taken in the second round following the pandemonium of the Taylor Ward selection and, in some ways, may have calmed some people down (including myself). He had a commitment to attend and play at the University of North Carolina, but was swayed to sign with the Angels by receiving a $1.1 million dollar signing bonus (obviously a significant amount higher than the $800,000 bonus pool slot for the 70th overall pick). Boy am I glad they blew the wad to convince him.

Jones comes from an athletic family, his late-father, Andre Jones, was a defensive end for the 1988 national championship Notre Dame team and played briefly for the Detroit Lions. His two older brothers, TJ and Malachi, both played football in college and TJ is even in the NFL with the Lions. Talk about the genetic lottery, and you can see how it trickled down to Jahmai (6’0” and 215 lbs.) as his athleticism shows through in multiple ways on the diamond, let alone the gridiron.

Jahmai gets high praises for his natural talent, raw athleticism, and makup, but a lot of evaluators have been impressed with his approach at the plate early on for someone who did not focus solely on baseball until getting drafted two years ago. Here’s just one example from a well-regarded prospect hound, Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs, on Jahmai in one of his ‘Prospect Chats’ where he answered in on my Jones optimism.

I think it’s fine to be excited about Jones. Good athlete, great makeup, excellent feel to hit, plays CF for me.

For someone with as little baseball experience and as young as Jahmai, who was two years younger than the average player in the Pioneer League, to hit as well as he did (.321/.404/.459 with 21 BB’s vs. 29 K’s) is rare to say the least. Here’s a Longenhagen tweet that perfectly exemplifies Jones’ raw ability.

Jahmai Jones has squared 96 into the gap for a stretch double, stayed back on 83mph slider and slapped it the other way. LAA's best prospect

An advanced approach at the plate, a nice compact swing, and a burning desire to get better with a good brain in between the ears from an 19 year old prospect? How could this get any better?

Well, like in every other sport, there’s another side of the ball: defense. When Jahmai was drafted out of high school, he was originally a second baseman/middle infielder, the Angels put him out in the outfield permanently and it seems to be paying its dividends. Orem manager, Dave Stapleton, reveals a little bit of the leader Jones needs to be in center.

He's been a big plus of this first half. He's done a tremendous job in the outfield of directing and making sure people are moving and shifting. He's extremely mature for his age."

He’s able to use his plus speed in playing a very strong center field, thank you football genes, and on the bases where he’s considered a plus baserunner already. He stole 29 bases with Orem in only 48 games, but was caught 19 times. So you can see the plus speed coming into effect. He’s expected to stick in center field and he’s a legitimate basestealing threat, that speed is a serious weapon.

Aside from the physical tools and ability, Jones perhaps draws the most raves for his makeup and maturity. Seriously, check out any article on Jahmai and you see nothing but high praise for the dude. Just ask the man himself.

"I've changed most as a player physically, I think," he said. "I've gotten stronger. I've focused on certain parts of my body that need to be better than others. But I've also changed the way I think about things, the way I work my pregame prep, even my in-game prep.... I'm thinking about all the possible outcomes at all times now, like making sure what base I needed to throw to if, say, the ball's in the gap or if it's hit to another player, what base I need to be backing up. I'm thinking about everything before it happens."

I know it’s an intangible that people can joke about and undersell, but this is fan-freaking-tastic to see from someone so young. I highly implore all of you to find more articles on Jahmai and see his quotes or follow him on Twitter, they make my eyes watery just thinking about them.

So there you go Angels fans. This is the key to the kingdom, this is the guy who should help put the Angels farm system back on the map, this is the guy to get excited for. He’s finally making some headway on the national level getting placed 90th overall in Keith Law’s Top 100 Prospect list yesterday and continues to earn respect and high praise from around the league. He initially did struggle when he was first promoted to Burlington, hitting only .242/.294/.306, but it’s important to remember he’s still very young, very raw, and it was only 62 AB’s against a much higher level of competition. Keep a close eye on this guy’s development, if the barren Angels system is going to produce a star, this is a the guy (kid). If you want to read more on him, check out my article from August, I was able to go a little more in-depth then. Point still remains, the sky’s the limit for Jahmai. Rejoice Angels fans. He’ll be playing next to Mike Trout in a few years.