Scouting Padres Prospect: Kennard Jones

After an off-year that saw his patience go down the toilet and his game fall off the map, Kennard Jones returned to the prospect that the Padres have seen before – the one they are happy to have.

Will the real Kennard Jones please stand up? Year to year it has been hard to determine whether this is the year of Jones or a setback.

Simply put, Jones is an enigmatic player. Blessed with talent, his head sometimes gets in the way of his natural ability. A relentless worker that often finds his way to the ballpark before the field manager can open the gates, Jones can become myriad in a slump because of how seriously he takes his game.

Jones does not have the defensive prowess of a Yordany Ramirez or Drew Macias but is far more advanced at the plate – that is when he is playing within his game.

A left-handed hitter, Jones profiles as a leadoff man because of his ability to draw walks and above average speed. He will spray balls into the gaps but does not have much power.

Jones spent the entire year in the leadoff spot for Mobile, hitting .281 with 71 walks in 124 games before a late promotion to Portland. He did, however, strikeout too much with his 123 whiffs over two leagues.

"Kennard had a great year," teammate Paul McAnulty said. "Sixty RBI's from the leadoff spot? Are you kidding me? That is a great year."

He set career-highs in nearly every offensive category this past year and played in 132 games for the second straight year.

Where Jones proved clutch was his ability to hit with runners in scoring position (RISP). While a leadoff hitter is not generally known for their ability to drive in runs, Jones swatted .363 with RISP and .377 with RISP and two outs. It resulted in 60 RBI's – second best on the Mobile team.

"He tried to do too much in the middle of the year but calmed down and played within himself," Tye Waller, the Padres former director of player development, said. "He was great at getting on base and had clutch RBI's all year. He was the best we had with men on base."

The Ohio native has continuously struggled in the stolen base department. He has a tough time reading pitchers and does not get good jumps. It is an area of his game that he has worked on feverishly but the dividends have yet to pay off. He stole 23 bases in 38 attempts – a 60.5 percent success rate. It was his best rate since his first season in Eugene. Grounding into 12 double plays shows the lack of explosion on the first step.

In the field, Jones has adequate range for a centerfielder. He reads the ball off the bat well and, other than his initial step, displays good range. His arm is also a plus – he was credited with eight outfield assists.

There have been situations where Jones will get himself in trouble from a personal standpoint. He is not afraid of a little confrontation and that has hurt him in the eyes of the Padres. He was suspended for seven games earlier this year for kicking the right field gate open in Mobile after being removed from a game in the ninth inning.

At the same token, Jones has always been active in the community and spearheaded a drive to bring 100 kids to a BayBear game in August.

Jones has taken a rollercoaster ride to get to Triple-A. He has faced bouts of inconsistency along the way and must stay true to himself to take his game from prospect to major leaguer. Jones will, at times, take too many pitches that force him into bad counts and thus his strikeout totals have risen.

"He has the best bat of the bunch," a Padres scout admitted. "And because of that he probably ranks slightly ahead of our other centerfielders."

Everyone believes he will hit, meaning the important pieces of the puzzle will be laying down the bunt, beating out the double play and being aggressive on the basepaths – inevitably leading back to his stolen base success. If he can put the finer points of the game in place, Jones may be the guy talked about as the next centerfielder in PETCO. He will have to overcome disappointment in the same breath. This season it is conceivable that he begins the year back in Mobile – which Kennard Jones will respond? The answer may dictate his future.

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