ATLANTA -- We've seen the damage Andruw Jones can inflict on a baseball, but will he ever live up to the savior label given to him during his ascent to the major leagues?
The body is nearly identical to the one that produced 49 home runs, 37 stolen bases and 105 RBI in 1996, with the exception of eight tattoos scattered about his 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame.
Don't forget the kid-in-a-candy store smile. It's still there, but will the Curacao native ever duplicate the gaudy numbers he produced in the minor leagues?
Last year, Jones gave the Tomahawkers at the Ted a glimpse of the potential Braves personnel have raved about for half a decade. The center fielder blasted 31 homers and drove in 90 runs while being shifted up and down the lineup.
Following his 1996 rampage through the minors, in which he made stops in Durham, Greenville and Richmond, the wonder kid's hype grew to epic proportions.
He became the Braves' poster boy for organizational development. Seasons of 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases were expected to become perennial events by the masses, but not necessarily by the 22-year-old.
"If I hit 40 home runs, then I hit it. I don't worry about that too much," Jones said. "I have to establish myself as a leading batter, I think I can do that. Up here, they know better what to do, not like in the minor leagues."
Atlanta's man of the new millennium predicts his power numbers will surge "in the near future."
His progression continues. He's becoming more patient at the plate. Jones has learned he doesn't have to swing at the first offering every time he steps in the batters box.
Heading into Thursday's game against Pittsburgh, Jones was batting .274 with three home runs and 16 RBI. The potential of the right-handed slugger almost scares Braves hitting coaching Don Baylor.
"He's a rare breed," Baylor said. "What he did last year is a small dent of what he could do."
Judging Jones solely by his power numbers may be enough for fans, but his mind is preoccupied with timing. He relishes producing with runners on base or coming up with a clutch hit in the ninth inning.
Three times this season, Jones has come through for the Braves in their final at-bat. His single up the middle on Wednesday drove home Keith Lockhart and completed a dramatic three-run ninth to give Atlanta a 5-4 victory over Pittsburgh.
Those are the days his ear-to-ear grin almost reaches the tattoo on the back of his neck. The jet-black ink markings represent Taurus the Bull, his astrological sign.
"I feel good at the plate," Jones said. "I feel I have my swing down. I didn't try to do too much. I just tried to put the ball in play and get a run in."
Jones, now a mature 22, has a handle on his potential and can't afford to fall into the trap of playing a numbers game. In a lineup with an offensive arsenal more potent than NATO, Jones resides in the seven hole, but his agenda is all about winning.
Personal goals remain unrevealed. Jones gets his adrenalin rush by watching his teammates stampede their way toward him following a game-winning hit. There is no secret behind his smile.
"I don't let anything bother me," Jones said. "If I do good or bad, I try to stay positive. That's why I smile."
Jimmy DeButts is a sports writer for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3216.