Written by Mark Firkins Photo by Joe Simon
Jose Ramirez, Yandy Diaz, Giovanny Urshela, Erik Gonzales, Mark Mathias, Nolan Jones… The Cleveland Indians have a very good problem. They have a lot of good, young talent at 3rd base. Nolan Jones is the youngest of the bunch at only 19 years old, and he just finished his 1st season of professional baseball with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Single A – NY PENN League). Jones was drafted in the 2nd round (55th overall) out of Holy Ghost Prep School in Bensalem, PA in the 2016 draft. A Shortstop in high school, he was shifted to 3rd base upon signing with Cleveland. At 6’ 4” – 185 lbs, his size and physique make him a natural fit for the position.
Nolan’s bat speed and smooth swing allow him to make hard contact. His raw power, while impressive, should also improve as he adds even more strength to his large frame. He enjoyed a fine 1st professional season at the plate batting .317, with 18 doubles, 3 triples, 4 home runs and 42 RBI. A disciplined hitter who earning 43 BB but also struck out 60 times. Nolan Jones played 62 games at 3rd base for Mahoning Valley last summer. He possesses excellent arm strength and makes accurate fluid throws across the field from the hot corner. This was his 1st season playing a new position and also playing professional baseball. He did commit 22 errors, however he has the potential and tools for success at 3rd base and to be an above average defender.
I had the pleasure of seeing Nolan perform at his finest this past season. Between August 2nd and September 4th he went on an offensive tear, raising his batting average from .252 to .313. In the 9 games I saw him play, I witnessed him go 22 for 39, with 9 doubles and one home run – a monster of a home run that easily traveled 400 + feet! On August 30, 2017 in a game versus the Batavia Muckdogs, Nolan smacked a pitch in his 1st at bat in the 1st inning that cleared the batter’s eye fence in deep Left Center field by at least 10 feet; a blast that traveled so far that it landed on the neighboring T-Ball field of the adjacent Little League complex next door to Dwyer Stadium.
As stated, the Cleveland Indians have a good supply of young 3rd basemen in their system. There are question marks where their breakout star Jose Ramirez will play everyday in 2018 (3rd or 2nd base). Yandy Diaz was given a taste of MLB last season and will be given a chance to compete for that position this spring. Giovanny Urshela has been in the Indians plans a few years now. He has impressive defense and has experimented as an infield utility man. Erik Gonzales is most suited as utility player (one who can also play OF). Urshela and Gonzales are out of options, adding an interesting twist to their futures with the Indians. Mark Mathias (a 3rd round 2015 Indians draft pick) just completed his 2nd season in the minor leagues and has advanced from Single A, NY PENN League to AA Akron, but still a few years away from being MLB ready.
Nolan Jones is next in that impressive line. He currently ranks as the Indians #5 prospect. The 2018 season should see him advance to high A Lake County (Midwest League) or Lynchburg (Carolina League). Improvements in his defense are to be expected but it will be Jones’ bat and offensive output that will eventually earn his way to the big leagues.
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