Name: Daryl Jones
DOB: September 1, 1986
With a career .242 average as a minor leaguer and 21 homers in 299 games, Jones has not tapped into his power potential and has lacked overall consistency.
After hitting .235 during the first two months of the 2007 season, Jones went on a tear, hitting .302 over his last 26 games before injury claimed the rest of his season.
Some insiders have claimed his early season woes in 2007 were a product of repeating the Midwest League. During spring, Jones was effectively passed up by Craig Cooper and Kyle Blanks on the depth chart – both ending up in High-A while Jones was dished back to Low-A Fort Wayne for a second season. The first baseman wasn't happy with his fate.
"He has to quit feeling sorry for himself and step up and do it," former Padres minor league field coordinator and current MLB scout Bill Bryk said frankly. "He is still young and has great bat speed – the ball jumps off his bat. He has above-average raw power. He has made progress defensively.
"He has to put the time in, quit feeling sorry for himself, and go up and make people take notice of what he can do."
Midway through the season, Jones realized he had to put up numbers no matter where he was or he would be fast tracked – right out of the game.
"He got off to a horrible start and if you talk to him he would say the same thing," Fort Wayne manager Doug Dascenzo said. "He started to turn it around in month number three, right at the end of the first half. He started to swing the bat very well and exceptional at times."
And that is an attitude he has taken through the off-season. Jones has been in Arizona, working hard at the Padres complex with Jim Lefebvre, trying to bring out his immense potential.
His talent has yet to translate to on field success but the tools are all there, and he could be poised for a breakthrough season.
A dose of honesty – this could be his final chance to make an impression with the Padres.
"I was hoping for Daryl Jones to take the next step, which he didn't, and we lost the last month," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said.
Blessed with incredible power potential, Jones has failed at pitch selection that has sapped his power numbers.
Instead of looking for a pitch to drive, Jones gets overanxious and will swing at just about anything in a hitter's count, regardless of where it is pitched – looking for the big hit.
Seeking a pitch to drive has eluded the first baseman – and he only just started to turn things around at the end of his 2007 season. Things were starting to click; it appeared he was finally getting it – a walk is not such a bad thing, and if his pitch is not there, let it go since there will always be another.
"He came a long way before his season ending injury," former Fort Wayne and current AZL Padres hitting coach Bob Skube said. "He was driving the ball into the gap and getting a lot of extra base hits. He was not trying to pull the ball so much and not trying to just hit home runs.
"I think he learned a lot about hitting in the last month of his experience in Fort Wayne. I believe he raised his average by 45 points right before he got injured. He got it up to about .270. He tailed off and was playing injured the last week. He had a 12 or 13-game hitting streak in there. He made some adjustments and became a better hitter with those adjustments."
An excellent fastball hitter, Jones has also struggled with the off-speed pitch. A steady diet of them over the last few years has not improved his ability to hit those pitches. He dives out over the plate for the slider that tails away and out of the zone and will get caught flat-footed on changeups inside – opening up his front shoulder and flailing at the pitch.
While it might be hard to believe, Jones actually possesses one of the sweetest swings in the system. Because he was raw coming in, the Padres were able to smooth him out quickly and give him a clean approach at the plate with a slight uppercut that has a Ken Griffey type feel to it because of its smooth loop that does not get choppy.
The ease in which he swings the stick is also reminiscent of Griffey – Jones does not need to overswing because of his naturally quick hands and wrists, giving him plenty of power when he glides the bat head through the hitting zone.
Putting his capability onto the field will require a mix of patience, discipline, and determination. Jones has the work ethic but is very hard on himself mentally and that will carry over into games. Attacking each day without letting a previous day affect him will be a huge benefit.
Confidence issues have plagued the young Californian. There is no doubting his ability, but he needs to apply it and take the lumps that are inevitable throughout a season.
Jones is a station-to-station runner that will never be a threat to steal bases. Like most sluggers, he is a non-factor on the base paths.
Jones' defensive game is adequate. He has a quick glove that picks balls out of the dirt to aid his fellow infielders and moves well around the bag. While he can turn the double play well from first, he is not an accurate thrower as he fails to set his feet before the throw.
He sometimes lacks concentration on balls hit his way and will rush his feet trying to make a play or take his eye off the ball on pop ups.
"He simply has to hit," said Dascenzo. "He has to swing the bat. He has to produce. He has to hit some balls out of the ballpark and of course play some good defense.
"He lost some time this year and has to get back and be ready to go in Spring Training and show people he can swing the bat."
ETA: The 2008 season will be a big one for Jones. He has a chance to gain confidence in the California League and that could propel his future. Or, Jones could continue to have trouble and his baseball career will be in doubt. We are betting on the former.
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