Spring Training Q&A with Ben Jones

When you talk about sleeper prospects in the Yankee system, Ben Jones has to be smack in the middle of that conversation. Jones has intriguing power and could make an impact in 2005, his first year of full season ball. We caught up with the righty slugger in a spring training Q&A.

PinstripesPlus: Ben, the first thing people seem to know about you is that you have good power. Do you think that is the right impression?

Ben Jones: Yeah, I'm a power hitter. There's no doubt about that. I have been a power hitter all through college and I was in my first year in the organization last year. That is just the biggest part of my game as an all around player. So, I think that is the best way to recognize me, yes.

PP: Have the Yankees given you any type of indication as to where you might start the 2005 season?

Jones: Well, obviously that has a lot to do with how I perform in spring training. I'm going to go out there and show them over and over again that I can play. But, the only thing I really am sure of is that I'll be in either Charleston or Tampa. They have told me that I'll be trying to win the first base job at one of those spots. You know, as long as I am getting the consistent playing time, either team would be fine with me. I think I am going to hit the ball just as well not matter where I play.

PP: It has been said that you are a very strong defender at first base. What can you tell us about your defense?

Jones: I would definitely say that defense is a huge part of my game. So, that helps me out a lot, complimenting my good power game. It is a good feeling to be able to help out the rest of the guys in the infield. What I mean is that I like to pick up the guys and save them a lot of errors. I have made a habit of picking balls out of the dirt and saving a lot of wild throws. It is a nice feeling and your teammates really appreciate it. So, I take a whole lot of pride in my play at first base.

PP: Going back to last season, you were off to a great start until you got injured. Tell us a little about your injury.

Jones: It was a hamstring injury. I just pulled it one game and just pulled it pretty good. They didn't want me to hurt it any worse so they decided to shut me down. It was certainly kind of disappointing because I was playing pretty well at the time. But, that's the way it goes sometimes.

PP: You have always been a good power hitter. Was the adjustment to the wooden bat any concern for you?

Jones: Well, I did know that it was going to be an adjustment. But, I also knew that it wasn't anything I couldn't handle. I will say that it was only tough for like the first two weeks. Then, after that, I was good to go. It was honestly like I have always used a wooden bat. It was only a struggle for those first two weeks.

PP: Heading into the 2004 draft, did you have any expectations at all?

Jones: Honestly, I wasn't expecting anything. I mean, it was in my mind, of course because I had a good year in college. But, I was going into it looking for anything. I knew I could get drafted but I really hadn't spoken to any scouts or anything like that. But, hey, it was just great to be drafted and by the Yankees was just even greater.

PP: We always hear how low profile the Yankees are about their scouting. Did you know anything about their interest prior to the draft?

Jones: Yeah, I'd say that is very true. I had no idea of their interest in me prior to the draft. I never knew they were scouting me or anything even thought they apparently were.

PP: Kevin Higgins was able to be a guiding light for many hitters in Staten Island last year. In what ways was he able to help you at the plate?

Jones: "Higgy" was great. He was really a great help for me while I was playing in Staten Island. He was able to adjust a lot of things with my swing and I think what he taught me is really going to help me in the long run. He's a great guy and a fantastic batting coach.

PP: What are your goals heading into the 2005 season?

Jones: My goals are always very simple and pretty straight forward. I just want to keep moving forward with my career and everything. I don't want to get stuck in one level. But, as long as I keep producing at the plate, I don't see that happening. My goals are more long term than anything else. I just want to be a big league player. As far as I'm concerned, I think if I keep working hard, I'll be able to eventually meet that overall goal.

PP: Briefly describe your approach at the plate.

Jones: Well, I like to look for a pitch out, away from me. I try not to lean out to create the pitch I am looking for though. I just want to try and let the pitch come to me. Then, I jump on one that I really like so I can extend my arms and put a good swing on the ball. If the pitches are there, then I just try to sit on one and drive it the other way or if it is middle in, I'll pull it.

PP: What improvements are you looking to make heading into 2005?

Jones: Basically, just consistency at the plate. I want to be able to go up to the plate, for every game all year and expect the same results. I don't want to have a week where I kill the ball and the next week, I can't hit anything. So, if I can find a level of consistency, I'll be very happy.

PP: Which pitcher that you saw last year, while in the organization, would you least like to face?

Jones: I would have to say Jesse Hoover. He'd be very scary to face. He throws so hard and you have to worry whether he knows where it is going. He's bringing 95 MPH heat with a pretty good curveball. I really don't think I'd want to be facing him.

PP: Which hitter impressed you the most?

Jones: Well, the guy that impressed me the most wasn't on my team in Staten Island. I was really blown away by Shelley Duncan during the Instructional sessions last year. Wow, that guy can just crush the ball. He has huge, huge power. I was really just amazed by the power he had. He looked like an absolutely awesome hitter.

PP: What are your expectations for the 2005 season?

Jones: Well, I think I can definitely see myself hitting, you know, like 15-20 home runs. That is what I am shooting for I think. I don't think I'll hit for a really, really high average or anything but I am naturally more a power guy.

PP: What is one thing that you think sets you apart from any other player?

Jones: I'd have to say that I don't let anything get to me. I am a really laid back guy and nothing bothers me. I am not too easy to shake up. I just go out there and play the game. I don't do anything real fancy and if things don't go my way one day, I'll come back out and do my best the next day.

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