Jones Getting Acclimated to Pro Ball

Lefty hitting Richard Jones was the first catcher selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 2009 draft this past June. Drafted in the ninth round from The Citadel, Jones made a name for himself with the bat early on, slugging seven home runs in 12 games in the Arizona Rookie League before being assigned to Class Low-A Boise of the Northwest League.

As an amateur, Jones led The Citadel in home runs and RBI this past season, batting .378 with 17 homers and 69 RBI in 59 games.

Despite getting off to a slow start at Boise, the 21-year-old Jones has come alive recently. Through 26 games, he is batting .258 with one home run, five doubles and 14 RBI. Over his last 10 games, Jones has gone 14 for 40 for a .350 average. He's 19 for 59 in 16 games overall for the month.

Jones said he doesn't necessarily think of himself as a power hitter and that his main approach at the plate is to just have consistent swings.

"My swing in college and high school was just kind of all over the place," Jones said. "My main focus (is) consistent and easy swings."

"I've tried to [hit for power] since I was younger, but it really depends on all the guys you have around you in the lineup. In Mesa, I had (Chris) Weimer and here Justin Bour and Greg Rohan, and they're phenomenal hitters. Home runs, they just come with guys on base and pitchers making mistakes. Having guys around you just really makes you hit."

According to Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken, the bat is just one of the things Chicago scouts liked about Jones as an amateur.

"There's some effort in his swing, which kind of takes away from pitch recognition," Wilken said of Jones. "When Richard figures out how to [trust his physical attributes and bat speed], he's going to have a chance to hit. You can see what transpired with the home runs, but there is some pretty good raw power. It's just a matter of relaxing and recognizing pitches.

"He's got pretty good hands and has every bit of an average major league arm or better," Wilken said of Jones' defensive skills.

"He's got to work on some flexibility [issues] with his legs and his lower torso, but he's a strong young man. He's got a chance to be an average catcher. Despite being a pretty big man, his hands are pretty good and they're flexible. There is still stuff that he has to work on, but he's got a better than average arm and he's shown [good] unload times. So it's there; it's just putting everything together."

Jones said he was excited when he got the promotion to Boise, in part because Hawks manager Casey Kopitzke is a former minor league catcher and previously the Cubs' Minor League Catching Coordinator.

"For me, the manager was a catcher and I was real excited to work with him and I've gotten to improve my catching game," Jones said.

"One of the questions they had was whether my footwork and my blocking would improve behind the plate. We've been going at it and doing early work three or four times a week with my catching and footwork and blocking. It really has helped; just the mindset of it and what to anticipate."

Jones is a catcher first and foremost, but he's made a handful of starts at first base since beginning his pro career. He said first base was a nice position to have on his resume.

"I had never played another position because I've always been an only catcher," Jones said. "But when I got to Mesa, they put me at first base a little bit. I got to play there and I feel pretty good and comfortable over there. It's good just to have the option of playing there."

Jones said he has been pleased with his first pro season.

"It's all a learning process. The difference between college and pro ball is huge," he said. "It's not just the difference in bats and players, it's the mindset. "

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