High draft picks, injured prospects and those with disappointing progress reports litter the hot…
The Natural: Now Showing in the Inland Empire
The new season brought back all the hype of the first round pick that is the best shortstop prospect since Alex Rodriguez first donned the Seattle Mariners' colors 12 years ago. Jones is ready for the challenge.
" I like it here. It's cool," said Jones when asked last week about being in the Inland Empire lineup as opposed to being in Single A Wisconsin.
Jones, a former high school pitcher out of Morse High in San Diego, Calif., made strides in the Midwest League last year with 72 RBI, 23 doubles, 11 home runs and a .267 batting average in 510 at bats.
The ability that he's shown with the 66ers, both with his glove and bat, in the early going this season has been well received by manager Daren Brown. "He has a tremendous amount of ability and he makes the routine play all the time," said Brown.
The tremendous amount of ability led to flashes of brilliance in the first three games of the year, with Jones hitting a home run off the scoreboard, one of the deepest shots in 66ers history, in the season-opener versus Bakersfield.
The start of the season has Jones' batting average at .267 but he's also carrying a whopping .667 slugging percentage with two home runs, and three RBI in 15 at-bats.
Jones also brought about a respect from some Mariners that he trained with in the off-season. He sparked a friendship with Mariners' utility man Willie Bloomquist. The competitive nature of Jones and Bloomquist has brought up a lofty challenge.
"I plan on competing for the starting job in Seattle in a couple of years," said Jones after Saturday night's game versus Bakersfield.
A late-bloomer in the sport, Jones didn't start getting into baseball until he was 15.
"[When] I started watching baseball, the Padres were good with Tony Gwynn, and Ken Caminiti was the MVP in 1996. My step-dad took me to some games and after going to two or three games, I started to like it," said the shortstop.
Jones has shown solid range on the field with the help of another Mariners first round draft pick, Michael Garciaparra.
"We played together through Spring Training and we know each other's range," said Jones. "I know where he is. He knows where I like to be. It's good."
The young man who wants to "chill" will be expecting to give more of his cold treatment to California League pitchers this season. Another year of that, and Jones will be another step closer to his dream of one day playing in the bigs.
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