Palm Beach Cardinals Player of the Year: 2008

Our Scout.com Palm Beach Cardinals Position Player of the Year for 2008 is outfielder Daryl Jones. The 21-year-old paced the Florida State League club's offense prior to his late July promotion to Double-A.

Simply put, Daryl Jones was the straw that stirred the Palm Beach Cardinals' drink in 2008.

In the midst of a career-best season in a notorious pitcher's league and playing over half his games in a park where the wind is often gusting in, Jones was almost unstoppable. Over his final 31 games in the Florida State League, the left fielder was hitting .372/.445/.496 (BA/OBP/SLG), including 13 walks compared to only 16 strikeouts.

Jones was clearly ready for more, and on July 24, the 21-year-old was promoted to Double-A Springfield. Yet the Palm Beach cocktail would go flat without him.

 

The previous night, Jones had put the exclamation point on his FSL career, perfectly illustrating his value to the club. Batting fifth, the left-handed hitter was on base five times, going 4-for-4 with a walk, a stolen base, a run scored, a home run and four RBI, one of which was collected with two outs.

 

At that point, Palm Beach was exactly 100 games into their 2008 schedule. They were 14 games over .500 at 57-43 (.570) on the year. Going forward, the momentum did not remain with Gaylen Pitts' club, however.

 

The remainder of the season, the Jones-less Cardinals played a very ordinary 19-20 (.487), including a 1-2 record in the Florida State East Division Playoffs.

 

Were there other factors? Of course there were, but I submit no single change was more significant to the close of Palm Beach's 2008 season than was the loss of Jones.

 

As a result, it should not be a surprise that Daryl Jones is our selection as the Palm Beach Cardinals Position Player of the Year for 2008.

 

Palm Beach hitting coach Keith Mitchell tutored Jones prior to 2008 and can see the difference in the player. "He's grown up in front of my eyes and really impressed me this year. All of the talk and all of the work we did in the cages the last couple of years has finally started to come around.

 

"I see Jones maturing now. It's like, ‘I can't believe what I am seeing here,' exclaimed the coach.

 

Upon his departure from Palm Beach after game 100, Jones ironically finished with exactly 100 hits, though he had played in just 87 games. His line with the A-Advanced club was .326/.406/.476 (BA/OBP/SLG).

 

He offered production, delivering seven home runs and 35 RBI.

 

He leveraged his speed, scoring 45 runs, collecting seven triples and stealing 18 bases in 23 attempts.

To reinforce the pitching strength of the FSL, on the full-season basis, the league had just six .300 hitters. Jones' .326 mark would have been second, just six points off the lead. His on-base percentage of .406 would have been tops in the circuit.

Even though Jones' power may be the last of his tools to fully develop, he clearly hit FSL pitchers hard. His slugging mark of .476 would have ranked in the league top ten, at seventh. In the most balanced of these performance measures, OBP, on-base plus slugging percentage, Jones would have placed fifth among all FSL players in 2008.

Some have labeled this a comeback season. I don't. I call it a breakout season, because Jones has never had a year like this before. He didn't come back to anywhere he'd ever been in his professional baseball past, which began with his selection in the third round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.

 

Instead, Jones raised his game to a new place, one measure of which is recognition as our Palm Beach Cardinals Position Player of the Year.

 

Mitchell may have put it best. "He's 100% better mentally. Physically, he's healthy. He's matured a whole lot. Talking to him, you can just hear it. He's a man now. He's starting to get it and when he does, he is going to be a heck of a player. He's a very exciting player."

 

Contacted by The Birdhouse upon receiving this award, Jones said the following:

 

"Well, I definitely feel honored to have been awarded with this. I'd like to thank the Cardinals organization for the opportunity and support and I look forward to building on this and getting better as a player going into next season... Thank you!!!"

 

Congratulations, Daryl Jones!

 

Other notable hitters

 

The Cardinals had six players voted onto the Florida State League All-Star Team, including four position players. Catcher Tony Cruz started and went 2-for-3 with a double, RBI and run scored. Sadly, his solid season ended shortly after when he suffered a broken hand at the end of June. Still, despite missing most of the last two months, Cruz paced Palm Beach with 58 RBI.

 

Infielder Donovan Solano and Jones were also All-Star selections and played in the game. Outfielder Tyler Henley had suffered a broken finger and was unable to participate. Though he played in only 86 games due to the injury, Henley sparked the Cardinals lineup and swung a consistent bat. His 26 doubles led the team and tied for 12th in the FSL.

Middle infielder Daniel Descalso had an uneven season prior to his late August promotion to Springfield. He led the Cardinals in runs scored with 57, but also in errors with 19. He batted .243 with 24 doubles, eight home runs and 50 RBI with Palm Beach.

When early season offensive power source Steven Hill (.320 with seven home runs and 25 RBI in 121 at-bats) was promoted to Springfield in May, Andrew Brown stepped in. The former Nebraska first baseman led the Cardinals with a .330 batting average and team-best .967 OPS in 88 at-bats prior to his own call to Double-A.

 

Outfielder Antone DeJesus was an unsung member of the club, leading Palm Beach in walks (45), third in OBP (.405) behind only Brown and Jones, and tied for second in triples with four.

 

Before I end this article, there is much more that I could say about Daryl Jones and his superb 2008 season, but to be honest, I expect to be extolling his virtues again in this series very soon.

 

 

Master article with all 2008 Scout.com Cardinals Minor League Players of the Year and the schedule for daily announcements: link. (This link is also permanently located at the lower left of The Birdhouse home page.)

 

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net

 

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