Giants prospect Jones finds power at perfect time in Arizona Fall League

Giants prospect Jones finds power at perfect time in Arizona Fall League


With two on and the scored tied at one run apiece in the fourth inning, Giants infield prospect Ryder Jones found the perfect time to unleash his power stroke for the Scottsdale Scorpions Monday in the Arizona Fall League. 

Facing the Peoria Javelinas, Jones smacked his first home run of the AFL, a three-run shot to give the Scorpions a 4-1 lead. Scottsdale went on to win the game, 5-4. 

"I faced the same guy a week ago and he struck me out on sliders," Jones said to on his home run and facing Padres prospect Brad Wieck. "I was just trying to see a fastball early. If I didn't get one for a strike, I was sitting on a slider.

"He kind of hides it pretty well. I just sat on a slider, he threw one middle in and I was able to backspin it."

Jones, picked up by the Giants in the second round of the 2013 MLB Draft, improved his slash line to .300/.333/.425 this fall in 11 games played. After starting off slow, Jones believes his mental side of the game has improved as reflected in his stats. 

"I'm just trying to see the ball up. First week, I was chasing a lot. You just have to be patient, see the ball up and try to drive the ball," said Jones. "I've hit the wall a couple of times, so I knew a couple of home runs would come. I wasn't too worried about it, but it's nice to have one instead of zero."

And the home runs are exactly what came for him last season. Jones, 22, improved from six long balls in 2015 at Advanced Single-A for the San Jose Giants to 15 last season for the Richmond Flying Squirrels in Double-A. 

[RELATED: Giants pitching prospect Stratton to start Fall Stars Game]

"I was pretty disappointed to have hit just six home runs in the California League," Jones said. "You come over there and you expect to hit 20 home runs. But I swung at bad pitches. The average was OK, but I didn't drive enough balls."

What changes did Jones make to improve his power? For the Seattle product it's all about his eye at the plate and picking out the right pitches to attack. 

"This year I worked a lot on seeing good pitches, getting my strikeouts down. It's just a product of… I don't know if I've gotten bigger and stronger, maybe a little bit, but it's more of a product of swinging at better pitches and knowing what pitchers are going to do to you," Jones explained after the win. 

Jones drastically improved his game in the second half of last season. After posting a .233/.262/.374 slash line before the All-Star Game, Jones put together a .277/.347/.455 slash in the second half of the season. He also walked 13 times after the All-Star break, the same total as the first half, in 40 less games.

Not only did Jones' home run help his own numbers, he also helped his fellow Giants prospect and Scorpions starting pitcher, Chris Stratton.

Stratton, who was named the starting pitcher for the Fall Stars Game on Monday, earned the win after striking out five in four innings and only allowed one earned run. The 26-year-old right-hander is 2-1 with a 3.94 ERA in the AFL.

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”