Keeping up with the Joneses in Atlanta just got a little harder, A September-prospects preview, The Hall Call
With the best record in baseball and a seven-game lead in the National League East, the Braves didn't grow cautious, they got more daring. They traded for Marlins third baseman Terry Pendleton; they moved All-Star Chipper Jones from third to shortstop, where he hadn't played regularly since 1993 (and that was in the minor leagues, before he had major knee surgery in 1994); and they railed up 19-year-old Andruw Jones from Triple A Richmond, put him in rightfield and made him number 2 in the batting order. Those are a lot of changes for a successful team. They could backfire and hurt clubhouse chemistry, but it's more likely they will make Atlanta a stronger team when October arrives.
First off, Pendleton is one of the game's true leaders and is still a good clutch hitter. Secondly, Andruw Jones might be the reliable rightfielder the Braves have lacked since David Justice dislocated his shoulder in May. Calling Jones up on Aug. 14 gave the Braves two weeks to determine whether he's ready to play in the major leagues; if he is, they can add him to their playoff roster by the midnight Aug. 31 deadline. "If he's as good as everyone says," says Atlanta fust baseman Fred McGriff, "he'll be O.K. up here." Finally, by moving Chipper Jones to shortstop, the Braves have a 30-homer, 100-RBI man in their middle infield instead of light-hitting Rafael Belliard or Ed Giovanola.
Jeff Blauser, who was the starting shortstop until mid-July, when he broke his left hand, is due back in a couple of weeks. But he wasn't playing very well (.248 average, 22 errors) when he got hurt, and if Jones proves he can play short, the Braves will probably keep him there through the postseason.
The key is Andruw Jones, who is thought to be the first player since Phillies pitcher Pat Combs in 1989 to start a season in A ball and go on to Double A, Triple A and the big leagues in the same year. Along the way Jones hit a combined .339 with 34 homers, 92 RBIs and 30 steals. And he's as good defensively as he is offensively: Some scouts say he's on a par with Atlanta's Gold Glove centerfielder, Marquis Grissom.
Jones is from Cura�ao in the Netherlands Antilles. He speaks four languages: Dutch, English, Spanish and Papiamento (the Creole language of the Dutch Caribbean islands). He went to a Braves tryout camp in his homeland in 1993 and was so impressive that he was signed at age 16 by Braves scout Giovanni Viceisza. Bobby Dews, the minor league field coordinator for the Braves, told Atlanta manager Bobby Cox, "When Andruw gets to the big leagues, he'll be an All-Star every year."
In his debut on Aug. 15 Jones went 1 for 5 with an RBI single, had an outfield assist and made a throwing error in an 8-5 win over the Phillies. He had a better second game, belting a triple and a homer in a 5-4 victory over the Pirates on Aug. 16. He admits he was surprised to have been called up so soon, but he is not awed about being the youngest player in the majors. "I don't worry about age," he says.
Prospects on Parade
Andruw Jones isn't the only top prospect to watch over the next few weeks. Here are four others whom baseball people are excited about and hoping to get a glimpse of when rosters are expanded in September.
? Vladimir Guerrero, outfielder, Expos. Hitting .363 with 17 homers at Double A Harrisburg, Pa., Guerrero, 20, had an impressive .446 on-base percentage at week's end because he walks a fair amount (48 times in 427 plate appearances) and doesn't strike out much (36 times). But what impresses Montreal general manager Jim Beattie most about the 6'2", 180-pound Guerrero is his attitude. "How many guys have we seen who have great tools but bad makeup?" Beattie says. "He'll hit a routine grounder to shortstop and beat it out, because he always runs hard."