JaCoby Jones slated for second season in AFL
Whenever JaCoby Jones is done tearing up Major League pitching in Detroit this season, he has a return engagement scheduled with the Arizona Fall League. The Tigers’ newest rookie contributor is one of seven Detroit prospects named to the Salt River Rafters roster.
Five of the players rank on MLB.com’s Top 30 Tigers prospect rankings, led by Double-A Erie slugger and All-Star Futures Game participant Christin Stewart (No. 3). Class A Lakeland right-hander Spencer Turnbull (12th), Erie reliever Adam Ravenelle (20th) and SeaWolves catcher Grayson Greiner (26th) also are headed to Arizona, as are Erie starter Artie Lewicki and Lakeland starter Jeff Thompson.
The list came together before the Tigers decided to call up Jones from Triple-A Toledo Tuesday. Now that Jones is up with the big club, the plan remains for him to take part, allowing him more at-bats after losing a month and a half serving out the final 39 games of his 2015 suspension. Jones is expected to be the Tigers’ priority player in the league, designating him for more playing time.
Jones, acquired from Pittsburgh at last year’s Trade Deadline for Joakim Soria, enjoyed a strong season in last year’s AFL, batting .280 (14-for-50) with home runs and four RBIs before he was suspended for testing positive for a substance of abuse. After a strong Spring Training, Jones finished his suspension, then picked up where he left off, batting .257 (95-for-369) with 20 doubles, seven triples, seven home runs and 43 RBIs between Toledo and Double-A Erie. He rebounded from a rough start with the Mud Hens to bat .269 (29-for-108) in August, with seven doubles, a triple and seven RBIs.
Jones hit .340 (18-for-57) over his last 13 games in Toledo with five doubles and a triple.
Stewart, a first-round pick last year out of the University of Tennessee, began his first full pro season by punishing Florida State League pitching for 24 home runs and 22 doubles in 104 games at Class A Lakeland. He batted .264 with a .403 OBP, aided by 74 walks, for a .936 OPS on his way to FSL All-Star honors. He entered Wednesday batting .264 (14-for-63) at Erie with 10 walks and 22 strikeouts in 18 games.
Greiner, a third-round pick in 2014 out of South Carolina, has enjoyed an offensive renaissance since his June promotion to Erie, batting .289 (59-for-204) in 58 games with eight doubles, three triples, seven home runs and 30 RBIs, good for a .782 OPS.
One of the better arms Greiner has caught is Ravenelle, the former Vanderbilt reliever drafted in the fourth round two years ago. He’s 2-2 with a 4.00 ERA and four saves in six chances between Erie and Lakeland, allowing 46 hits over 54 innings with 32 walks and 54 strikeouts.
Lewicki, an eighth-round pick in 2014, owns a 3-8 record despite a 3.43 in 13 starts and two relief appearances between Erie and Lakeland. The right-hander has allowed 76 hits in as many innings but just three home runs with 16 walks and 67 strikeouts.
Turnbull, Detroit’s second-round pick out of Alabama, got off to a late start to the season, pitching in the rookie level Gulf Coast League until joining the Flying Tigers in August. He’s 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA over five starts in Lakeland, allowing 17 hits over 24 innings with seven walks and 22 strikeouts.
Thompson, a third-round pick in 2013 out of Louisville, has had an up-and-down season but has put his pitching together down the stretch. The 6-for-6 right-hander is 7-7 with a 3.52 ERA at Lakeland, allowing 99 hits over 117 2/3 innings with 66 walks and 99 strikeouts.