Astros prospect Taylor Jones will get his chance in spring training to showcase his skills and audition to be Houston’s next first baseman.
Taylor Jones is in camp at the Astros spring training facility in West Palm Beach and will try to continue the success he has been experiencing down in the Minor Leagues. Yuli Gurriel had a standout season last year and is well entrenched at his spot at first base. But at 35 years old, it may be time to seek out his future replacement.
Spring training games begin tomorrow with the first game of a two-game set against the World Series Champion Washington Nationals. Manager Dusty Baker has already said that none of the Astros regulars will play Saturday and will slowly incorporate them into games Sunday and Monday. This puts the future prospects in the spotlight and their chance to shine.
Jones is one of those youngsters that management and coaches will keep a close watch on. The 28th ranked prospect of the Astros Minor League system, Jones appears to be the heir apparent to take over at the first base position. Out of the Top 30 prospects, not only is he the most experienced at first base, he is currently the player that’s the closest to making the jump to the Majors.
The 26-year old joined the Houston organization as a 19th round pick of the MLB June Amateur Draft out of Gonzaga University. Jones spent the majority of his first few years as a pitcher before he became a full-time first baseman in his senior year. That year he hit 27 doubles, the second-most in NCAA Division I and setting a school record.
In his four years in the Minors, Jones has quickly climbed the ladder through the system making it to the AAA level in 2018 and played all of 2019 at AAA ball. Last season, he slashed .291/.388/.501 with an OPS of .889. His power behind the plate has improved each year culminating in 22 home runs and 28 doubles in 125 games last year.
His 6’7″ frame is intimidating as he stands behind the plate but is not a hindrance to his defensive capabilities. He rates out as an above-average fielder at first, has a strong arm, and also plays adequately in left field.
Gurriel becomes a free agent after this year and will be turning 37 next season. He’s carrying a salary of $8.7 million and I’m not sure if the Houston front office will be willing to shell out that kind of money next year and at that age. If Jones has a good showing this spring and continues his success in AAA, we could see him called up near the end of this season and possibly take over at first in 2021.