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Mitch Jones

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Mitchell C. Jones

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Mitch Jones smashed 213 doubles and 184 home runs in a 7-year period in the minor leagues, averaging over 30 doubles and 26 circuit clouts per season, but did not make the majors at the time due to concerns about his batting average and defense. He joined the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in 2007, then finally made his long-delayed debut in The Show at age 31 with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2009.

Jones spent 1996-1998 at a local junior college, Utah Valley Community College, before transferring to Arizona State University in 1999. The Texas Rangers had taken him in the 33rd round of the 1997 amateur draft and the Baltimore Orioles in the 49th round of the 1998 amateur draft but he signed neither time.

In 1999, Jones hit .333/?/.641 with 11 HR for ASU. The Orioles selected him in the 25th round of the 1999 amateur draft but he again did not sign.

Jones hit 27 home runs his last year in college in 2000, second-most in NCAA Division I behind Brad Cresse. It was the all-time school record at ASU, a long-time baseball powerhouse that produced Barry Bonds, Reggie Jackson, Bob Horner and Sal Bando, among other luminaries. He tied Richard Lewis for 12th in NCAA Division I in runs (79) and was 5th in RBI (92). He hit .357 and slugged .787. Jones was chosen as a Pacific-10 Conference All-Conference outfielder. He was also selected as a Baseball America All-American, Collegiate Baseball All-American and ABCA All-American first-team outfielder.

Jones was picked by the New York Yankees in the 7th round of the 2000 amateur draft. He debuted with a bang, batting .268/.352/.504 with 28 doubles and 11 HR in 74 games for the Staten Island Yankees. He led the New York-Penn League in home runs, total bases (143), extra-base hits (42), slugging and doubles. He made the NYPL All-Star team in the outfield.

In 2001, Mitch smacked 36 doubles and 21 HR for the Tampa Yankees with a .224/.340/.439 batting line. He had 81 walks, 135 strikeouts, 81 runs and 9 steals in 11 tries as contact hitting was his only glaring flaw. He played the most games (137) in the FSL and tied Jim Deschaine and Nick Alvarez for the league home run lead. He was a Florida State League All-Star at DH. He led Yankees farmhands in strikeouts and tied Nick Johnson for the lead in walks. Baseball America rated him as the best power prospect in the FSL and the #18 overall prospect, between Freddy Sanchez and Luis A. Garcia.

Jones batted .218/.290/.431 for the Norwich Navigators in 2002 and found himself back in Tampa, where he hit .266/.329/.520. He struck out 130 times overall and hit 35 doubles and 23 home runs. He tied Andy Phillips for the most doubles by a Yankees minor leaguer.

In 2003, Jones produced at a .242/.338/.430 clip for the Trenton Thunder with 23 HR, 91 RBI, 131 strikeouts and 14 times hit by pitch. His 10 sacrifice flies led the Eastern League. He led Yankees farmhands in both RBI and strikeouts.

The next year, he was back with Trenton, batting .248/.334/.548 with 39 home runs, 92 runs, 97 RBI and 154 strikeouts. His Three True Outcomes rate was over 40%. He led Yankees farmhands in strikeouts and home runs. He tied Brian Dopirak and Joe Dillon for third in the affiliated minors in homers, behind only Ryan Howard and Dallas McPherson. He led the EL in home runs, total bases (272), extra-base hits (68) and tied Justin Singleton for the strikeout lead. He made the EL All-Star team as a DH.

Jones kept it up in 2005. In his AAA debut for the Columbus Clippers, the Utah native hit .268/.347/.507 with 82 runs, 27 home runs, 79 RBI and 174 strikeouts in 489 AB. he hit .331 against left-handed pitchers. He was three home runs behind International League leader John-Ford Griffin. He was second in the affiliated minor leagues in strikeouts behind another Yankee farmhand, Tim Battle. He was the IL All-Star first baseman that year.

In 2006, he remained in Columbus to bat .234/.318/.447 with a team-leading 21 HR and 145 strikeouts. He had hit 20+ home runs in every full season in the minor leagues. On May 19, 2006 he was called up to the Major Leagues. He spent one game on the Yankee bench before being returned to the minors without seeing any action. A free agent that off-season, he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Jones began 2007 with a flurry for the Las Vegas 51s, hitting .303/.402/.697 with 42 runs, 19 HR, 14 doubles, 60 RBI, 29 walks and 60 strikeouts (TTO % over 50) in 52 games. He was leading the Pacific Coast League in home runs (tied with Val Pascucci), slugging, RBI and OPS and was 7th in OBP. He was tied for second in the affiliated minor leagues in home runs. That drew interest from overseas and the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, who bought his contract for 60 million yen plus incentives through 2008. He debuted in Japan on June 29, hitting sixth and playing first base. He struck out against Tom Davey in his first at-bat and went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts on the day. Jones hit just .160/.208/.277 in 30 games in 2007 for Nippon Ham, with 32 strikeouts in 94 AB and only one home run. He was kept out of the 2007 Japan Series. He went 3 for 27 with 10 strikeouts for the 2008 Fighters and was released.

Back in the United States in 2009, Jones finally received his long-awaited first taste of Major League action when he was called up on June 16 when the Los Angeles Dodgers sent down Blake DeWitt and Jamie Hoffmann and called up Jones and A.J. Ellis. In that night's game, he struck out as a pinch-hitter against the A's Michael Wuertz, but picked up his first big league hit the next day. He had started the year on fire with the Albuquerque Isotopes of the PCL, slugging 21 home runs in less than three months prior to his call-up, batting .292 with 50 RBI in as many games.

Sources: 2007 Dodgers Media Guide, Minor League Baseball website, Japanesebaseball.com, Sun Devils website, which offers a different birthplace than the Dodgers Media Guide - American Fork, UT, Japan Baseball Daily by Michael Westbay

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