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May 31, 2010

Scouts talk Adam Jones

As part of a story that I wrote today on the offensive struggles of several of the Orioles’ younger hitters, my colleague Dan Connolly and I talked to several scouts to get their opinion. Surprisingly or actually shockingly to me, none of them were all that down on the group, saying that the struggles were normal growing pains that young hitters go through. They also felt that such struggles were exacerbated because most of the Oriole veteran hitters are either hurt or not producing, forcing the younger guys to carry the club.

I’ll blog comments from scouts on certain players over the next couple of days with entries on Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold, Nick Markakis and Brandon Snyder.

First up is Jones, who I’d have to think has been the most disappointing Oriole this year after his All-Star and Gold Glove season in 2009. He enters tomorrow’s series opener against the Yankees, hitting .251 with five homers and 15 RBIs. His on-base percentage is just .274 and he has hit into more double plays (seven) than he has walks (five).

Scout No. 1 on Jones

“He’s not the same guy we saw last year that would drive that breaking ball to right center. He stayed on the breaking ball so much better. He didn’t try to hit the three-run home run. I think with that 2-16 start, everybody started feeling a little pressure by not scoring runs.”

“[He’s not overrated] in my mind. I just think he is trying to do too much because the Orioles haven’t been scoring runs. And that has added more pressure on a young player like him because there has been so much of a buildup. Hitting three-run homers is not his game. His homers will come when he stays within himself and drives the ball to right, right center.”

“Without a doubt, I think Jones is going to become a really good player. If the Orioles are interested in trading him, I’d certainly be interested. I think in the long haul those guys will come out of it. Jones will come out of it.”

Scout No. 2

“In his case, the expectations were very high. And you saw what happened right off the bat. They lose their leadoff hitter and all of the sudden he is thrust into a situation he is very unaccustomed to. He is not that type of a guy and you don’t know what’s going through a young guy’s mind when he’s thrust into a role and situation he’s never been in before. You tend to put pressure on yourself and sometimes you think you have to be too successful.”

“Conversely, this year he got off to a bad start and you have to give him time, we’re a third of the way into the season. He has a long way to go and he can pick it up. On the other hand, he’s not in the same (lineup) position and does not have the same protection and all of those factors go into how well a player is playing.”

“Early on he was known as a bit of a free swinger and when he was thrust into the top of the order he reverted back to that and I think the reason was because he felt the need to get on base. When I see him now, he still has the tendency and penchant for chasing pitches out of the strike zone. It’s something he’s always done. And the only way to get better at that is to get out there and experience those situations and learn not to do that.”

“I don’t necessarily see a regression. What I see is a guy that is still growing. He hasn’t played more than two full seasons in the big leagues yet and that is not a lot of time. It’s a very small sample. He’s a toolsy player learning his craft at the major league level and that’s not easy. Some of the things that make you the player you are sometimes can make you look bad as well. Baseball is a humbling experience.”

Scout No. 3

“A lot of things came so fast for him, but the league caught up for him. I watch Adam Jones hit and you talk about somebody that is not only identifying pitches and seeing the ball. You don’t have to throw a strike to get him out. Why would you? Until he makes adjustments, he won’t be able to bring the raw power. They have figured him out and he hasn’t made adjustments to counteract that.”

“I think he’s getting help, but he doesn’t have the confidence. He looks like a young hitter who is chasing everything. What the heck is he doing sometimes? There’s no reason he shouldn’t hit 25 to 30 homers, but he gets himself out so much and doesn’t get into hitter counts. He’s messed up right now. I’m worried about him.”

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 4:37 PM | | Comments (25)


Interesting to see comments of those that lie outside the organizational and fan loop.

Look forward to seeing what the comments are regarding the other young players.

One thing I can easily agree on what was said the veterans have not only let this team down by their performance on the field but apparently their action or inaction in the dugout and clubhouse.


Please continue with these kind of reports as the season goes along. It is always good for fans to get continuing education. The comments by those scouts certainly helped my objectivity in looking at this mess of a season. At least there is still hope for the younger guys.

Jeff Z's reply: Thanks Wil

When is the story going to be up? It sounds really interesting.

Jeff Z's reply: Not sure, but I would assume pretty soon.

Jone's mechanics are poor at this point in his career. They have him standing too far off of the plate most likely because he doesn't handle the inside pitches that well. Cal was the same way for a long time but eventually became a solid hitter when he was able to handle the inside pitches better. You can learn to do this two ways, one is the way Jeter insides out the ball to go to right field with the inside pitches or two would be to hold the bat more perpendicular to force the player to use their hands and wrists more like Hank Aaron did. However, I don't foresee the present Oriole batting coach advocating either approach because that is not the way he hit. Too bad for now.

I think it'd be interesting for McPhail to get on a local sports talk radio show and answer questions from the fans to explain and justify the team's actions or inaction regarding moves. I think what upsets a lot of fans is not understanding why moves are being made/not made and the way ahead.

What these scouts are NOT mentioning is that Adam Jones' falloff in performance took place last year. This season is just a continuation of what he did the second half of last year. I can certainly believe that the league adjusted. But he still hasn't figured it out and one wonders if he will (at least while Terry Crowley remains the hitting coach). There are plenty of examples of young phenoms who flame out because they can't make readjustments to the league. (ex: Joe Charboneau)

Jeff Z's reply: I agree and I did mention that in the story I wrote. He's hitting .239 since the All-Star break last year. Not good.

I really hope Mr. Jones has a chance to read this article. I sometimes wonder what advice is he receiving from the club.

I know the loss of Brian Roberts has Adam batting in all places in the lineup that just adds to the confusion.

Hope the Orioles realize this is too much talent to squander and send away for nothing in return.

The scouts were right about Jones. He swings at everything and AL pitchers have him figured out. Until he makes his own adjustments, he's doomed .

From a non scout but, a long time observer--from 1945 --I see Jones as a head problem. He cannot adjust to the outside slider/ curve that's a ball when he has two strikes on him. He is looking Fast ball and can't realize that no one in the AL will throw him a strike when he has two. He may not recognize the spin and maybe he needs glasses. He also has the same problem with low and inside. Also, he needs to take some pitches.
Based on the above and his poor play in center -- he may be just a Hot Dog!

Interesting blog, Jeff, and look forward to the article. I agree that the young hitters are a disappointment but the real disappointment is the lack of support from the veterans (and the organization for not bringing proven hitters into the line-up)

Another suggestion for an article. Get some stats-minded person to track O's draft picks over a decade (say) and see where they are now, as compared to other teams in the AL. A lot of media (and fans too I guess) refer to the college draft as a "crap-shoot" as if no real talent is required to spot (and then develop) talent and it is all a matter of luck and chance. Clearly there is much more involved and I think a statistical analysis (as opposed to anecdotal discussions) will show that we have not invested in the kind of quality scouting and player development that has made Minnesota (and now Tampa Bay as well) models for small/mid-market success.

Great reporting, Jeff. Count me as one of the readers who would love to see more posts like this in the future.

I read the blog fairly regularly, and what I appreciate are the insights and original reporting like this. Don't feel beholden to the people who make dumb comments about managerial changes or who think it's witty to misspell McPhail. Don't even waste your time with a reply to them, actually.

Jeff Z's reply: Thanks Chris, much appreciated.

Great to hear some rational analysis to counter all those who blame "McFail." The Plan might not look so great right now, but it's still the right way to go. These young guys are still really talented. Hopefully the coaches can help Jones and others get back on track. Thanks for the article - great idea, Jeff!

“Early on he was known as a bit of a free swinger..."

Translated as, was and continues to be one of the most undisciplined hitters in the show. See Scout 3 for confirmation.

As someone who has watched nearly every O's game the last few years, I can say without a doubt that Scout #3 is the only one telling the truth.

The frustration of watching the Orioles never seems to end, and everything that could possible go wrong has. The regression and lack of development of the young O's is the most frustrating thing of all. People seem to be harping on the struggles of Atkins and Gonzalez, maybe they prefer to lay the blame at McPhail's feet, but the likes of Jones, Wieters, Riemold, Matusz and even Markakis with his complete lack of power, is what concerns me most.

Adam Jones is no where near being a CONSISTANT good hitter, and I won't even mention his fielding struggles (gold glove winner is hilarious). The piece about scouts on Wieters was funny too. Where was scout #3 on that one. He is totally confused and too damn slow in a lot of facets of the game.

What does the regression or lack of improvement from all these young players that we heard such good things about from national media and scouts mean? I'm not sure myself. Maybe the Orioles are cursed for some reason. Or maybe getting rid of Trembley and the rest of the coaching staff would be a good start. It can't get any worse.....but we've been saying that for so long.

Jones is just another example in a long line of failures with Crowley. Not making adjustments and having a plan to hit the ball are two basic principles to good hitting!! I'm not sure if a change in hitting coach will work, but it certainly can't be any worse. I see Jones problem as attitude, which mught very well impede him in improving at this level.

Scout #3 said it all. The difference between a talented player (which Jones certainly is), and a player with big league staying power, is an ability to stay ahead of the competition on a consistent basis. This is where coaching is key. If Crow and Trembly can take one of the most talented players in the game and train him to be a disciplined hitter, then we need new coaching.

From watching Jones hit this year, what virtually no one is talking about is that he reminds me a lot of what Pie looked like early last season before he caught his stride in the second half. Both guys are big, athletic outfielders who have the tendancy to be free swingers and if Pie figured it out under similar conditions why can't Jones?

As expected, the scouts believe that Jones’ problems are correctable. Where is the so called King of Swing ?

"I come in well, I throw well. I might step back a little bit, but I don't know," he said. "I tried it in [batting practice] but it feels weird being so far away from the infield. I don't think I am going to do it, but you never know." Adam Jones 3-28-10. He doesn't listen to Coach Shelby or Crowley. That explains the lack of improvement.

Jeff - This is one of the best articles I have read in the Sun. This is a topic which fans have discussed in depth and want to know more about and you did a great job going outside the organization and talking to baseball people who are more objective and don't have biases either way. Nice work!

Jeff Z's reply: Thanks a lot.

Orioles Marketing department must stop singling out players in ads. Every player they do it do has done awful this year - well everyone has been awful so maybe it isn't a pattern.

Are we possibly looking at a fella with million dollar skills but a 10-cent head?

Since when do 2nd and 3rd year players tell coaches and managers they will "consider it" when told they should consider playing a bit deeper in the outfield to avoid balls being hit over ones head regularly for extra bases?

No doubt that attitude also prevails when hitting tips are offered.

Or, should we be considering the fact that these are "suggestions" from coach and manager instead of "directives" as should really be the case?

Adam Jones has the potential to be the next Roberto Clemente. He needs to relax, realize it's not all up to him, and lay off the $%^&#

NOW there are NO untouchables on this team. The Cubs BEGGED for Riberts. Peter said NO , Not my son. SAD!!! Gibbons , Roberts, and Nick are long term, SAD !!! Muiltionaries, must be nice, SAD!!!! Xetra sad !! Andy , your dad is still turning over.

It's time to fire Terry Crowley and bring in a real hitting coach. Who knows how many top hitting prospects have been destroyed by Crowley's lack of ability. Jones and Wieters are great talents and are extremely important parts of the Orioles' future, and Crowley is making absolutely no progress in their development. In fact, they seem to be getting worse. Like I said, it's time to fire Crowley and bring in a real hitting coach.

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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