Daryl Jones got off to a hot start last year, hitting .299 in April but hit .230 the rest of the way. And after belting nine homers over the first two months of the year, the California native managed to hit just three the rest of the way.
So, he finds himself back in the Midwest League this year. The comeback begins in earnest with consistency at the forefront.
Petering out in the middle of the season caused Jones to change his off-season workout habits. Instead of going full-bore and using up all his energy, peaking in February, he went about his business in a different way to ensure he doesn't lose that momentum come June this year.
"I kind of took it a little easier this year," Jones explained. "I did a lot in the weight room trying to get bigger. It is funny because I got a lot stronger but did not put on any weight. I did a lot more running and stuff in the weight room than stuff on the field."
He left his swing pretty much alone, concentrating first on stamina and getting stronger. Work on the field waited until he arrived in Peoria – a couple of weeks before the start of spring training.
Jones understood that his body bore the brunt of exhaustion last year and was determined to not let that happen this year.
The question is whether the focus on his body will also help his swing. At just 20-years old, Jones has found it hard to change some of the habits of youth. He has always been an aggressive hitter but that also lends to swinging at pitches outside of the zone. Given his power potential, waiting on his pitch would make him feared.
But changing a tiger's stripes, as it were, isn't that easy.
"It is tough, but I have adjustments I have to make," the soft-spoken Jones admits. "Each year I am getting better and better. I had a lot more walks last year. I still struck out, but I did have a good amount of walks. I feel like I am getting better, but it is tough coming from LA and I didn't have the advantages of a lot of other guys. I look at it as a challenge for me."
Upping his pitch count by one per at bat is the goal, but he does not want to miss out on the balls his powerful frame can get full extension on so the delicate balance continues. It begins with pitch recognition, and his quick wrists will allow him to stay back on the ball before pulling the trigger.
Needing constant reminders, Jones went the way of extra incentive. It is a conscious reminder he gives himself as he approaches the plate.
And it starts at home.
"I actually have it written down in my house," said Jones. "Each day I remind myself. I have to write it down to keep it ingrained in my head. It is really tough because I like to swing at everything but right before each at bat I remind myself, ‘See pitches. Pitch selection.'"
And with that the comeback continues. He is hitting .300 over his first 11 games of the season with a .405 on base percentage. At the end of the year we could be crowning a new king of the diamond.