DENVER — Thanks to a clarification on his service time caught by the Colorado Rockies public relations team, Nolan Jones is eligible to be included on the voting for National League Rookie of the Year this season. The 25-year-old outfielder is making his case on why he should be on the radar for BBWAA voters.
Despite late start, Nolan Jones of Colorado Rockies should earn NL Rookie of the Year Award votes
Jones smacked his 19th home run of the season on Tuesday afternoon to push the Rockies to a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field. He also recorded his 18th outfield assist by throwing out Austin Barnes at home plate, toppng the franchise record in that category set by Dante Bichette. While Bichette needed 144 games to log those 17 assists in 1999, Jones bested him in his 87th game in the outfield.
Traded from the Cleveland Guardians this offseason, Jones has been a bright light in what has been a dark season in Denver. Despite seeing action in 28 games for Cleveland last season, Jones’ rookie status, in a surprise, was still intact for this year.
While Corbin Carroll of the Arizona Diamondbacks may be the leader for the award this season, Jones might have gathered more attention had he debuted with the Rockies sooner. Called up in mid-April but never getting into a game before being returned to Triple-A Albuquerque, Jones would finally debut for the Rockies on May 26.
“I thought the whole time was that it was going to be my opportunity to play,” Jones recently told me. “When I got back down (to Triple-A), I thought there’s two ways to go about it. You can feel bad for yourself or prove them wrong.”
Since then, he has proved the decision to send him back down as one the Rockies would like to have back, becoming an integral part of Colorado’s lineup while also learning to play left field at the MLB level in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league.
“It’s been a process and it’s been really exciting to witness,” Colorado manager Bud Black told me for this article on Jones while the Rockies were in Chicago for their final road series of 2023. “Even back in spring training, we saw the tools and we saw the ability in him. He went to Albuquerque, put up the numbers, and banged on the door hard to get the promotion. Since he’s come up, he’s been one of our most consistent performing players.”
Jones entered Tuesday’s play with an OPS+ of 133 and a slash line of .286/.382/.531 in 393 plate appearances. Carroll, meanwhile, came into Tuesday with a .288/.363/.509 slash line in 623 plate appearances, logging an OPS+ of 135 in the process.
Carroll may have the award locked up in the mind of BBWAA voters, but don’t be surprised to see Jones among the other top vote-getters. After all, Colorado may have had a season to forget, but Jones has had a year to remember.