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Angels' Jones focused on fielding in AFL after move

MLB.com @JonathanMayo

Jahmai Jones played the infield in high school, but for the first two-plus years of his pro career since being a second-round pick in the 2015 Draft, he'd roamed the outfield. Then general manager Billy Eppler surveyed the player personnel landscape and, realizing there was outfield depth up and down the system, asked Jones to move back to the dirt at second base.

The Angels' No. 4 prospect didn't hesitate to say yes and he spent the 2018 season re-learning how to play the right side of the infield at the professional level. As a result, it took him just as long to answer the question about what he's working on the most during his time in the Arizona Fall League.

Jahmai Jones played the infield in high school, but for the first two-plus years of his pro career since being a second-round pick in the 2015 Draft, he'd roamed the outfield. Then general manager Billy Eppler surveyed the player personnel landscape and, realizing there was outfield depth up and down the system, asked Jones to move back to the dirt at second base.

The Angels' No. 4 prospect didn't hesitate to say yes and he spent the 2018 season re-learning how to play the right side of the infield at the professional level. As a result, it took him just as long to answer the question about what he's working on the most during his time in the Arizona Fall League.

Arizona Fall League overviews for all 30 teams

"Definitely fielding," the 21-year-old said. "Making the transition to second base is something I thought would happen either a little earlier in my career or a little later. Never did I think it was going to happen right now.

"It's for the better. I definitely trust in Billy's plan. Billy's got a great idea of where he wants his players to be and where he wants the organization to be in the next three, four, five years and I'm all for it. I'm all in on his plan and he told me he wanted me to play second, so I'm looking forward to the opportunity, just looking to get some little things right, make sure my first step quickness, my setup when I'm playing the infield is right so I can continue to play the way I am."

That plan also includes improving his overall offensive game. Jones was coming off of a very solid 2017 that saw him play across two levels of A ball and finish with a .282/.348/.446 line to go along with 14 homers and 27 steals. While he did reach double-digits in home runs and swiped 20 or more bags for the third year in a row, his .239/.337/.380 combined line is not up to the standard he holds for himself.

"Don't get me wrong, the numbers of average, the numbers that show up on the scoreboard, you want to have high numbers, everybody does," Jones said. "I just try not to look up there, try to just focus on every single day at hand and make sure that if I'm not swinging it, I'm playing defense. If I'm not playing defense well, I'm making up for the errors I had in the field. Knowing that, I tried to take it in very small increments, tried not to look at the big picture, tried to look at every single day, 'Can I get a little bit better?' It was a learning year.

"Maybe statistically, it wasn't a great year on paper. It doesn't matter at that point. It was a year full of changes and a year full of new opportunities. I'm happy with the year that I had and definitely looking to build on it. Everything I learned this year, I'm going to use next year and see where it takes me."

It did take him to Double-A for the first time, arriving in Mobile a month ahead of his 21st birthday. He held his own, though those scoreboard stats were still a bit down, and he learned a lot.

"It was a lot of fun," Jones said. "I was facing guys a step away from the big leagues, guys that, day in and day out, they know what they want to do, they execute a plan and they do it better than the guys in high A do. I knew that it was probably going to be the biggest jump in my Minor League career, going from high A to Double-A, so I just tried to prepare for it, go out there and not take every day so hard."

That lesson is something Jones hopes to keep with him every step of the way. Literally.

"On the insoles of my cleats right now, it's 'Just breathe and have fun,'" Jones said. "If I can keep doing that, we'll see where it goes."

Angels hitters in the Fall League

Roberto Baldoquin, SS: The Angels made a big splash when they signed the Cuban infielder for $8 million in 2014, but things haven't exactly gone according to plan as he struggled to hit and stay healthy in two levels of A ball over his first three seasons. The 24-year-old did put up career-best numbers (.278/.334/.379) while playing three infield positions and reaching Double-A for the first time.

David MacKinnon, 1B: A soccer goalie as well as a first baseman at Hartford, MacKinnon has shown a knack for getting on base (career .437 OBP) since being a 32nd-round pick in the 2017 Draft. He's looking to take his hot second half (.316/.443/.455) and keep it going in Arizona to ready him for the upper levels of the system.

Angels pitchers in the Fall League

Jesus Castillo, RHP: A huge 2017 season that saw him pitch across three levels earned Castillo a spot on the 40-man roster. His first full season in Double-A, however, didn't go as well (4.94 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, .264 BAA), so the right-hander is trying to right the ship, along with making up for innings lost due to a three-week stint on the disabled list, with Mesa this fall.

Ryan Clark, RHP: The Braves released Clark, a fifth-round pick out of UNC-Greensboro in 2015, prior to the start of the 2017 season and the Angels signed him in April of last year. He pitched sparingly that season, but a move to the bullpen has paid dividends and he's continuing to work on that transition.

Brett Hanewich, RHP: A 2017 ninth-round pick out of Stanford, Hanewich missed plenty of bats in his first full season across two levels of A ball (9.7 K/9) and was even more unhittable up a level (.179 BAA in the California League), but he needs to work on his command (6.0 BB/9 for the year) in order to step up successfully to Double-A.

Daniel Procopio, RHP: Another 2017 college draftee (10th round), Procopio quickly pitched his way from the California League up to Double-A, where he struggled. He missed a ton of bats (11.9 K/9 in 2018), but will also be working on his command this fall (6.1 BB/9 during the regular season).

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.