Diamondbacks' top prospect Druw Jones is heating up in Low-A

Visalia Rawhide's Druw Jones bats Tuesday, April 11, 2023 against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.

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Visalia Rawhide's Druw Jones bats Tuesday, April 11, 2023 against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. 0411 / Ron Holman / Visalia Times-Delta / USA
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Diamondbacks people have been waiting nearly two years for Druw Jones to turn into the ballplayer the club envisioned when selecting him second overall in the 2022 MLB Draft fresh out of high school in Georgia. Jones’ development has largely not gone as planned, but he looks like he's been getting on track lately. The 20-year-old has been playing well lately with the Visalia Rawhide in Low-A in what would be his first full season in the minors, looking to put aside an injury-riddled first two years of his pro career.

If there's been one obstacle for Druw Jones in his career, it's his health. A week after the 2022 MLB Draft, Jones tore the labrum in his left shoulder in his first batting practice with the team and underwent surgery that ruled him out of making his debut in his draft year. His first run in pro ball came with Visalia Rawhide to start the 2023 Low-A season. Jones played 10 games before injuring his right quadriceps, sidelining him for two months. He returned to action mid-June, but quickly went back to the injured list after hurting his right hamstring in his rehab assignment in the Arizona Complex League, putting him out of action for another month. Jones returned to Visalia mid-August and made the most of his first real crack at the minors. After going hitless in his first three games, Jones lived up to the hype for the remainder of the Low-A season. In his last 15 games, he slashed .339/.438/.500 with a 0.73 BB/K for a 157 wRC+ (57% above league average) in 73 plate appearances. 

A clean bill of health and a promising end to the ‘23 season suggested a breakout season might be in store for the outfielder this year. However, the first eight games of this Low-A season indicated otherwise. Jones was overwhelmed at the plate, batting to a dismal -11 wRC+ (111% below average) and striking out a whopping 60% of the time. The entire stretch was messy, but the last game was the worst. In five trips to the plate, he struck out every time. Things can only get better after a performance like that, and boy, has that ever happened to Jones. Ever since that five-strikeout game on April 16, Jones has been slashing .333/.475/.521 for a 173 wRC+ (73% above average) and is only striking out just 23% of the time, nearly a third of his prior K rate. He's also reached base safely (via a hit, walk or hit by pitch) in every game at least once in his current 15-game-and-counting hot stretch.

Druw Jones is improving, both at and below the surface, for Diamondbacks

Jones' underlying numbers also detect his improvement. Through his first 12 games, Jones made contact at a 20.7% rate (19 batted-ball events on 92 swings). Over the next 11 games, he has been making contact at nearly double that rate at 36% (26 batted-ball events on 72 swings), which helps explain the significant decrease in his strikeout percentage. Jones has been on a tear lately for the most promising stretch of his career, though good luck has played a part in his success. His .455 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) over his last two weeks is unsustainable and hints that he's been quite lucky at the plate and is due for some negative regression.

Regardless of how Jones has fared offensively so far this season, just the fact that he's been able to play for a full month-plus is a big accomplishment given his extensive injury history. There are 100-plus games left in the Low-A season for Jones to build off an already exciting start to his 2024 campaign.