Justin K. Aller
Garrett Jones is a baseball player for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He does one thing well. This is a story about that thing.
There are many things in this world that Garrett Jones cannot do. Garrett Jones cannot pitch. He has never pitched a professional game and the odds of him doing so before he hangs it up are about the same as the cycling community welcoming Lance Armstrong back with open arms. Garrett Jones cannot hit left-handed pitching. This isn't up for much debate, as Jones has a career .590 OPS against portsiders, which is 10 points lower than Rey Ordonez's career OPS. Garrett Jones cannot live without the Olive Garden. He's a huge fan of the establishment and loves to order the Chicken & Gnocchi Veronese. Garrett Jones cannot kill a bug. It's just not in his blood to destroy another life form like that.
However, what Garrett Jones can do is hit baseballs far off pitchers who throw with their right hand. In his career, Jones has a .279/.348/.504 line with 71 HR and 222 RBI in 1,411 AB against them. Sure, it's not Joey Votto-type production, but I bet it's higher than you thought it was. In 2012, Jones did that one thing he does well better than any other full season of his career, hitting .289/.332/.556 with 25 HR and 76 RBI in 401 AB versus right-handers. In fact, he did that one thing he does well so often that his overall line made him the 17th most valuable 1B and 49th most valuable OF according to the ESPN Player Rater. That may not sound like the world greatest endorsement in mixed leagues, but in NL-only formats, it's kind of a big deal. Jones will take the dual eligibility (1B/OF) into the 2013 season with him - though for keeper/dynasty formats, keep in mind that he may very well lose the OF portion of that after this season.
Garrett Jones' story is one of perseverance. He was selected in the 14th round of the 1999 draft out of high school by the Atlanta Braves and spent three years in rookie ball before being released. Of course, he was also a 1B who had a combined .236/.296/.330 line in those three seasons combined. Needless to say, he was not doing that one thing that he does well, well. Jones latched on with the Twins, who with the exception of 84 plate appearances in the majors during 2007, let Jones toil in Triple-A for a long time. Long enough for Jones to accumulate nearly 2,000 AB at that level alone. Finally, in 2009, he signed with the Pirates - and after spending the first three months back in the International League, he arrived in Pittsburgh on July 1. He would hit .293/.372/.567 with 21 HR in 314 AB that season, and has not played another minor league game since.
There are many players available throughout drafts that are considered "unsexy", and it's likely because they're over 30, they play in a small market or they were not well thought of as prospects in the minor leagues. Garrett Jones is all three of those things. But while NL-only leaguers are familiar with him (as they should be), mixed leaguers should become more familiar.
There is a strategy to deploying players like Garrett Jones in a shallower format and it centers around letting Jones do that one thing he does well, but nothing else. If you are in a league with daily lineup changes and a relatively deep bench, Jones makes for a great strong side of a platoon. By sitting Jones every time the Pirates face a southpaw and subbing in a bench-level player, you can use his strengths to get the most out of that lineup spot. In a 14-team league, where that bench player might be someone like Michael Brantley or Jon Jay, that platoon could net you a .280+ hitter with 25 HR and 10 SB - and all it would cost you is two late draft picks and a bench spot. After all, production is production. So get out there and let Garrett Jones do the one thing he does well for your team.
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Check out more of my stuff at The Dynasty Guru, including my 2013 Dynasty League Rankings, for which the Top 50 catchers were posted yesterday (in addition to the Top 150 Prospects list from last week).