DETROIT -- The Tigers received a boost to their prospect rankings on Tuesday without a trade or a signing. With JaCoby Jones' return from a 50-game suspension, the club not only has a valuable position player back at work, but the chance to set a new position for him as he resumes his path toward the big leagues.
Jones, ranked as Detroit's No. 8 prospect by MLBPipeline.com and the return package from Pittsburgh in the Joakim Soria trade last July, finished out last season at shortstop at Double-A Erie, though the Tigers envisioned Jones as a future corner infielder or outfielder given his 6-foot-2 frame and athleticism. He moved around in Spring Training, everywhere from shortstop to outfield, before serving the final 38 of a 50-game suspension Jones received last fall for a second positive test for a drug of abuse.
Now that he's back in the lineup at Erie, the Tigers expect to have Jones split time between third base and center field, assistant general manager David Chadd confirmed. Jones started at third base in his return game for the SeaWolves on Tuesday night, batting sixth in the lineup.
Jones, who turned 24 last week, batted .257 last year with 25 doubles, five triples, 16 home runs and 80 RBIs at three different stops across two organizations. He went 5-for-16 in Major League camp this Spring Training with two doubles, two homers and four RBIs.
"He's very athletic, especially for his size," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said on Tuesday. "He's a big kid. He has ability to play the left side of the infield. He has the ability to play center field. And quite frankly, I'm not sure what position's better, center or third. To me, those would be the two options.
"He's still young, he's still raw. He still needs to get at-bats, but he certainly has the chance to be a pretty good player."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.