Jones hoping to get to Ohio this year
Whether it is short season Single-A Mahoning Valley or Low-A Lake County, outfielder Hunter Jones is hoping to get to Ohio and play in front of crowds this season.
Jones, 20, was selected by the Indians in the 11th round of the 2010 Draft out of Lakewood High School in California, but he has a lot of roots in the Cincinnati, Ohio area with lots of family there.
“I really want to get to Ohio because I have a lot of family members out there,” Jones said. “For me, it would be good to have everyone back.”
Chances are that Jones will not open the season in Ohio and that he will remain in Arizona for extended spring training while lots of players depart for full season destinations. But there is a good chance he could join Mahoning Valley when they start short season league play in June.
Jones spent all of last season at the Indians’ Player Development complex in Goodyear, Arizona. He went from spring training in March to extended spring from April to June, to the Arizona Summer League from June to August, and then the Fall Instructional League from September to October. He spent a lot of time in the desert last season, and probably will spend some more time there for the first few months of this season.
Players left in extended spring training or to play in the rookie level Arizona Summer League can often feel isolated as they are away from true affiliate ball and do not play in front of crowds. But Jones feels it helps him prepare better and be more focused.
“It is weird [to play in front of no one], but it makes your mind stronger,” Jones said. “You have to stay focused and you can’t take days off. There are not a lot of people in the stands and you feel like nobody is watching, but the important people are watching. You just have to keep your mind right and keep it going.”
Jones is paying the price that a lot of high school signees make when they sign a professional contract straight out of high school. On the plus side they get to begin their careers right away and get professional coaching, nutrition, and strength and conditioning, but on the negative side a great majority of high school signees end up playing rookie ball for two seasons – their draft year and then the next full season after it.
That means they spend almost the entire first two years in the organization out in Arizona. That can wear on guys after a while and make them doubt they are ever going to move up or make them second guess their decision to sign. But it is part of the maturation and adjustment process with transitioning to the professional game.
“I felt it was good to sign and get out here and get comfortable so I could adapt faster,” Jones said about signing out of high school. “Maybe not strength and maturity-wise as college would have been better that way, but just [getting into a professional environment].”
With all the time that Jones has spent in Arizona the past year and a half, he has had time to adjust to the professional game and work on some changes at the plate. He has a good swing with some developing power, so he is really trying to hone in on that so he can get more consistent with his hitting.
“It is coming easier now and my routine is better,” Jones said. “I think I am more settled in and more used to it. I feel like I am able to stay more consistent and get on base more. I am working on taking balls the other way, and working on the inside pitch and turning on it.”
Jones was originally drafted and signed as a shortstop, but made the switch to the outfield last season. He has worked hard on the position change the past year and has really come along as a defender in the outfield. With his well above average speed, good athleticism, and strong throwing arm he really fits in well in the outfield. He primarily plays left field, but he also plays some center field and right field.
“I love the outfield a lot,” Jones said. “I feel like I have some good athletic ability to me, and the outfield is perfect as I can use my speed out there. In the infield I felt like my arm was longer, so it adapted pretty well for me in the outfield. I feel [the toughest thing to adjust to] is reading the ball off the bat and getting used to left, center and right. Some outfield positions are easier than others, but I am just trying to get used to the reaction as it is a little different than the infield.”
Jones has also had the benefit of having his own personal coach as his father Tracy Jones played outfield professionally in the big leagues for six seasons. He was a 1st round pick in the 1983 Draft by the Cincinnati Reds and also played for the Giants, Mariners, Expos, and Tigers during his career which ended after the 1991 season. Hunter was born in August of his final season as a player.
The younger Jones has been able to draw from the experiences his father had as a player and believes his knowledge and understanding of the game inside and outside the lines can only help.
“He is a real help for me,” Jones said. “He knows the ins and outs of baseball, and he just wants the best for me. He does a good job of training me and telling me what is good to do.”
Jones’ Ohio roots come from his father as he spent the bulk of his career in the Reds organization. While he was born and raised in Lakewood, California, his father lived in the Cincinnati area for several years while he was with the Reds. So Jones has a lot of ties and family in the southwestern part of Ohio.
Wherever Jones starts the season is out of his hands, but how he performs and develops is.
“My goal all along is to stay healthy and play hard,” Jones said. “And get to Ohio.”
Follow Tony and the Indians Prospect Insider on Twitter @TonyIPI. Also, his new book the 2012 Cleveland Indians Prospect Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.
Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.