On many evenings in the Arizona League, the left side of the San Francisco Giants' Rookie League infield includes the club's first two selections in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. The Giants' first pick, Christian Arroyo, plays shortstop and is among the league's top 10 hitters with an average of .324. His teammate, Ryder Jones, is a bit lower at .314.
San Francisco selected Jones in the second round out of Watauga High School in North Carolina, where he was a very effective pitcher and shortstop for the Pioneers. In his senior year, he hit .461 with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs. Jones tied the school record for homers and set a record for RBIs. His career earned him state and national acclaim.
One of the intriguing aspects of Jones is his ability to pitch effectively in addition to hitting for average with projectable power. His hitting ability caused the Giants to project him as a hitter first and possibly as a pitcher in the event he doesn't make sufficient progress with the bat. Given Jones' potential as a two-way player, San Francisco has chosen to begin his career by playing him at third base, not at shortstop, where he played in high school.
At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, it is easy to see why the 19-year-old Jones projects better at the left-side corner than at short. He could potentially add weight to his already large frame. Jones' size could impede his progress as a shortstop.
As a pitcher, the right-hander is capable of bringing his fastball in the low 90s, and Jones has a slider as a secondary pitch. If he were to convert to pitching, his current repertoire points to a role as a reliever as opposed to as a starter.
But for now at least, the left-handed-hitting Jones will make his way as a third baseman. His pitching days may be held in reserve.
I saw Jones play several games at third base this summer. He has an advanced feel for hitting and likely learned hitting mechanics from his dad, who is the baseball coach at Appalachian State University.
Standing upright in the front of the batter's box and close to the plate, I've seen Jones hit well against difficult left-handed pitching. That's a tough task for any hitter, let alone one only 19.
Jones has a good eye at the plate and can easily discern balls and strikes. He makes excellent contact, having struck out only 38 times in 161 plate appearances. Jones has walked 14 times.
While I haven't seen much power in his stroke, I have seen Jones' ability to take pitches up the middle. He has an uncomplicated, compact swing, and he hits the ball hard. Jones uses the entire field as his target.
Defensively, it looks as if Jones is still becoming comfortable at third base. He looks a bit awkward making plays to both sides, but he's still learning the new position. Jones uses that strong arm to make throws, but he'll have to work on being consistently accurate.
Overall, Jones is a work in progress. He has an effective bat that will continue to develop as he physically matures. Defensively, Jones has work to do at third base. He has to gain a comfort level so the game becomes more natural for him at his new position.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter.