Jones on AZL Padres pitching prospects

Jimmy Jones handled a young AZL Padres pitching staff that saw some surprises on the mound and had a smattering of exceptional talent in the second half.

Rafeal Arias is a guy who struggled during extended spring, but when the season came around, he really performed well. What changed?

Jimmy Jones: I think with a guy like him – he came to extended not really sure if he was ready. He is a strong kid – lean and muscular – but there were some issues with his mechanics, not a whole lot. I pulled out a velocity card in extended and he was topping out at 88.

He took to what we were teaching him mechanically and started to put it altogether. He got stronger as the summer went on as well. He was hitting 95 and 96 mph during the summer as well. He really took to what we were teaching him mechanically. It fit him really well.

What did you say to Pedro Hernandez when he came back to you. He struggled in Eugene after being the best performer during extended spring for you.

Jimmy Jones: By far he was the best. I think he was probably trying to do too much, and he didn't need to. His best pitch is his changeup.

He got fast. His mechanics got fast. I remember when he came back down from Eugene, I was talking to Portillo and Sanchez and asked them if he was that fast in extended. They both said, ‘No, his tempo is a lot faster.' That was what made his arm drag because the rest of his body was too fast. He started to put it together in Arizona once he slowed his tempo down.

You had Matt Lollis for a short period in Arizona but got to see him again in the Instructional League. What did you see out of Matt that makes you believe he has a bright future?

Jimmy Jones: In my reports, I made him a big leaguer in 2012 or 2013. He is a big guy but he moves around pretty well. He is a good athlete and does a lot of things really well.

He has a tendency to get a little flat – his pitches do – and that is when he starts to get hit. He does need to work on his secondary pitches to make them sharper and a little bit tighter. If he gets it together and leans up a little bit, he can be pretty good. He falls towards the plate a little bit.

When he doesn't catch up to himself that is when the ball starts flattening out. He might still be throwing hard but it does not have that extra life. The angle of the ball is a little different and it really affects his secondary pitches. His curveball becomes loopy and slower and hangs in the zone a little too long. It is very noticeable when you are the hitter – to be able to see that pitch. That could be his size. He is only 19 and still a kid.

What impressed me about James Needy was his aggressiveness. He seemed like he had a good feel for pitching as an 18-year-old. Is that a fair assessment?

Jimmy Jones: That is a very fair assessment. He has good movement. His ball, especially when he keeps it down, has good life to it. He throws a lot of two-seamers and that thing bottoms out quickly.

He had some things with his mechanics. He was a guy that opened up a lot when he threw. If you were to draw a straight line from his toe to the plate, he would be a good foot on the left side of the line. That puts a lot of pressure on your elbow and can really affect your off-speed pitches.

In the Instructional League, he really worked hard on cleaning up that line and it will make a huge difference next year. He will have more consistent velocity on his fastball, a more consistent break on his secondary pitches.

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