Padres Prospect Interview: Daryl Jones

Fort Wayne, IN: First baseman Daryl Jones is the type of player that every major league organization covets; young, strong with a world of potential. Unfortunately, along with the word "potential" comes another word "expectations", and Jones, while showing glimpses of what he could be, has failed to put together the kind of consistent performances that is needed, and expected, of top players.

Jones, 20, was drafted in the fourth-round of the 2004 draft by the Padres out of Westchester High School in Los Angeles, CA. His first year, at only 17, Jones showed promise in the Arizona League hitting .295/.327/.395.

The next year he hit only .188 in Eugene. Jones sub-par performance was mainly due to contact lens troubles and a bad ankle injury which hindered his ability to train in the off-season and play in spring training.

Last year in Fort Wayne, Jones started off well, hitting 10 home runs before June 4 and making the Midwest All-Star team, but hit only two afterwards, ending the season at .242/.325/.378.

In the spring, the Padres elected to go with 2006 draft pick Craig Cooper over Jones at Lake Elsinore to rotate with Kyle Blanks between first base and DH, sending Jones back to Fort Wayne for the second year in a row. After a slow start, Jones had his best month in June hitting .271/.319/.435.

He's still young, but it's also his fourth year of professional baseball, and Jones needs to begin translating some of his potential into performances that he is capable off.

Last year you had a big first half, made the All-Star team, but tailed off in the second half. What was the reason for the decline?

Daryl Jones: Last year, it was mostly more physical, mainly my legs were wearing down. Then Blanks went down and I was playing every day. Then it got to be my knees, back hips, so when I went home this year I really focused on getting stronger in my legs, improving my base.

So this year I feel a lot better, because it was right around this time last year that I started to get tired.

When people talk about going into the weight room it's not like you're just trying to go in there and lift as much as you can. You look like you're in a little better shape than you were last year, especially cardio-wise. Can you go through you're workouts in the off-season with us?

Daryl Jones: I'm not really a big heavy weight guy. I'm more into working out with a lot of reps to really focus on my endurance. I do a lot of legs and explosion exercises, you know jumping, hoping around, a bunch of weird stuff [laughs]. I have a trainer when I go home, so I do a lot of isometric exercises.

From what I saw the other night, you seem a lot more active around first base defensively, just quicker. Is that one of the payoffs from your off-season workouts?

Daryl Jones: Yeah, definitely. I'm really not the typical big first baseman. I mean I'm strong, but I really wanted to improve upon on my quickness and speed. I wanted to stay lean to I can improve a little more.

You seem like you're trying to increase your versality position wise, so you could have more opportunities at making the major leagues.

Daryl Jones: Exactly, I really don't want to be labeled as a big slow first baseman. I'm running better this year than I did last year.

Your defense seems to have really picked up from last year at first base this year. What did you do to improve?

Daryl Jones: Really not that much. To tell you the truth I really don't even work that much at defense. Last year I was flip flopping back and forth between first and DH and now I'm just getting a lot more reps over there. I'm just more comfortable over there as compared to last year.

When guys like you come out of high school, it's tough for many of us to understand, that you did so well in high school, things came so seemingly easy, that you never really failed. So it must be quite an adjustment to deal with failure at the professional level. How hard is it to get used to that, the mental more than the physical aspect of the game?

Daryl Jones: It was pretty tough for me. I played in LA, which was good, not great baseball, but it was a pretty good jump. I'm facing college guys, guys from different countries and everyone on the field is pretty good. So it was pretty hard to understand that you were going to fail seventy to seventy-five percent of the time. I'm still pretty young, only 20, so I'm not really where I want to be mentally, but I'm much better than where I was last year or a few years ago.

How tough is it to start narrowing down your personal strike zone. Knowing that what the pitcher is throwing is a strike, but I can't really do anything with that pitch, and learning to still be aggressive, but wait for your pitch?

Daryl Jones: It's hard for me because I know I have power and I want to show it off. It's hard for me because I've been striking out a lot and don't want to get behind in the count, but it's a learning process and I've been getting better at it. It's still hard for me to let strikes go by knowing that I'm going to be 0-1 or 0-2 and here come the breaking balls, but I'm learning something new every day. It's all about waiting for your pitch and not missing it.

Last year, it helped because I played with a lot of older guys so that really helped me quite a bit.

The other night you hit a home run over the left field wall and then the next at-bat you hit one pretty hard down the right field line. The book on you a few years ago was that most of your power was to the opposite field. Are you consciously trying to pull the ball more now?

Daryl Jones: I try to focus on hitting the ball in the middle of the field. My hands are quick enough so that if I get an inside pitch I can yank it. When I start trying to pull the ball I get into some bad habits. I think I do a pretty good job when the pitch is away, I hit it away. Sometimes though when the ball is inside I end up rolling over on it, instead of driving it.

The other night you hit your first home run of the year and hit a few other balls very hard are you starting to feel more comfortable at the plate now?

Daryl Jones: Yeah, I've been struggling a little bit and I just had to keep working and working. Even the other day I didn't get any hits, but I felt comfortable at the plate. That is the biggest thing for me, to feel comfortable at the plate.

You're going into you're fourth year in professional ball, so are you tailoring your off-season workouts to prepare for not only the grind of 140 plus games, but all the workouts and training that goes into playing in a full-season league?

Daryl Jones: Yeah, especially coming back here. As I said before, I knew I needed to get my legs right because we do so much work before the game. I really focused on the physical part, but I also wanted to get my mental game right. I don't want to be one of those guys that had the talent but could never put the mental part of the game together.

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