Having watched the career of Andruw Jones unfold right in front of our very eyes, Braves fans can recall the incredible defense he displayed on a nightly basis for the entirety of his time in Atlanta. Because the Curacao native was an integral part of the greatest era in Braves history, it can be easy to let bias cloud our judgement of Jones. Luckily, other national baseball outlets are going to the post for us, and a year early no less.
On Friday, Paul Swydan of FanGraphs released a piece to examine the Hall of Fame credentials of our beloved center fielder. Swydan points out the highlights of Jones’ candidacy, noting his defense, power, and heroics as a 19-year-old in the World Series. Those points are based in fact, but so are the ones that Swydan makes regarding where Andruw ranks in terms of his power as a center fielder:
Here’s the list of players who played 75% of their games in center field and also hit at least 400 home runs in their career:
-Ken Griffey Jr.
To be listed alongside those two, and only those two, speaks to the rarity of a player like Andruw Jones. Had he aged more gracefully, we may have seen Jones further his counting stats to a level that would have placed him in first-ballot territory in the same vein as the other two players listed. Nonetheless, Andruw Jones’ offensive exploits stack up alongside those of the greatest center fielders in baseball history.
In addition to Jones’ offensive capabilities, he was an incredibly gifted defensive center fielder, as most here can distinctly remember. As Swydan notes, Jones was among the greatest defenders ever, regardless of position, and has the hardware to prove it. Though Gold Gloves are no doubt an imperfect source from which to gauge a player’s defensive abilities, they can be used a loose guide to how a player was perceived over the course of their career. Andruw took home 10 Gold Gloves during his time in Atlanta, which certainly does not encapsulate just how valuable he was, as Swydan details his place among all-time defenders:
Let’s start with this. Jones is the eighth-best defender of all-time by a combination of fielding runs and positional adjustment (which combine to create Def). Six of the seven players ahead of him — Ozzie Smith, Brooks Robinson, Ivan Rodriguez, Cal Ripken, Luis Aparicio and Joe Tinker — are Hall of Famers. The seventh, Mark Belanger, would be there if he’d been even semi-competent with the lumber.
That final note should be some cause for optimism with regards to Jones’ prospects of reaching the Hall, as should Swydan’s next point about which player most closely resembles Andruw from a defensive perspective:
Andruw Jones is the Brooks Robinson of center field, but with power and speed sprinkled in. (Oh, did I forget to mention that Jones is one of just 21 players all-time to tally 400 home runs and 150 stolen bases?)
Sounds an awful lot like a Hall of Famer. Swydan is clearly an admirer of Andruw Jones and his work as a member of the Braves, and it is comforting to see that all of us who wish so strongly to see Andruw be properly recognized are not alone in that sentiment. Too bad we will have to wait a year to find out where Jones will fall into the mix, but pieces like this only serve to raise awareness about the talents of a Braves legend.