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 MLB.com 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.
"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.