Prospect Profile: Kennard Jones

The buzz surrounding centerfielder Kennard Jones was high prior to and during the early part of the 2004 season. He began to get on base with regularity, using a solid batting eye and a good stick. That was the California League. When Kennard Jones got into the Southern League, however, things changed

He lost confidence.

In fifty games with Lake Elsinore, Kennard Jones batted .291 with 17 multi-hit games to his credit. His .368 on base percentage led to plenty of chances for the Lake Elsinore Storm.

Although he has the speed, Jones has never been able to master the art of the steal. Speedsters often make it look easier than it is but reading the pitcher's moves takes time and the initial jump a baserunner gets is imperative to his success.

Jones had 13 stolen bases but was caught stealing eleven times, including a stretch where he was nabbed on seven straight attempts.

"That is something that may continue," Tye Waller, the Padres' Director of Player Development, admitted. He might be a guy who steals a few bases, probably not a Freddy Guzman type."

Few are of the caliber of Guzman.

Jones only attempted nine stolen bases with Mobile and was successful on six of those tries. He was limited because of his inconsistency at the plate, preferring to get better at one trait at a time.

That drive towards perfection cost Jones. One of the first player's to arrive at the park each day, Jones was literally trying to hard.

"He is a guy who can play good defense," Waller said. "The biggest thing is he has to learn to stay within himself. Kennard is his own worst enemy. He tried to do too much at times."

Jones hit just .203 in June for the BayBears, following that up with a .234 month of July. Waller knew that a change has to be made.

"I had a good talk with him when I was there in early August. I told him, ‘you were one of the most disciplined hitters we had in the organization last year. You haven't been this year because you are trying to do too much. Just hit the ball hard and hit it to all fields.'

"For about two weeks he got his average up to .250 and then he started doing too much again and dropped down. I think the ability is there. You have to stay focused when the games are being played. That is what we have to work with on Kennard."

A ten game hitting streak followed that talk and things were looking up for Jones. He raised his average from .209 to .242 and had six multi-hit games during the streak.

He had just three hits over his next 11 games as his average spiraled downward to .218 at the end of August. Only a late surge in September, where he went 9-for-24 over his final six games raised his average to .234 for the year.

His struggles were truly emphasized at the plate by his inability to hit with runners in scoring position. He batted just .118 in 54 at bats with runners in scoring position.

Jones is a solid defender with an advanced eye. He has speed that he does not know how to use on the basepaths and has the ability to hit to all parts of the field. The trouble he gets into is the mental part of the game. His drive for success makes him put too much pressure on himself and he carries that over from day to day. If he can bypass that and live in the moment while trusting his tools, Jones could reach his potential.

He will be challenged again in 2005 as he will likely begin the year with Mobile. The Southern League isn't forgiving and the early part of the year will be the key to his future.

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