66ers' Jones runs hitting streak to 24 games

Angels No. 2 prospect goes 4-for-5, triples, scores three times

Jahmai Jones is batting .370 with a .411 on-base percentage during his 24-game hitting streak. (Donn Parris/MiLB.com)

By Tyler Maun / MiLB.com | August 23, 2017 1:35 AM

Last week, Jahmai Jones attributed part of his now-California League season-high hitting streak to luck. His manager knows there's a whole lot more to it than that.

The Angels' No. 2 prospect extended his streak to 24 games, going 4-for-5 with a triple and three runs scored on Tuesday as Class A Advanced Inland Empire dropped a 9-8 decision to Lancaster at The Hangar.

"It certainly hasn't been a cheap streak," Inland Empire skipper Chad Tracy said. "It's been a variation of hard-hit singles, he's hit doubles, he's hit home runs. He's driving the ball in the gap. He's hitting the ball line-to-line, right field line to left field line. It's just been all-inclusive, if you will. He's shown speed. He's been tremendous since he was called up here."

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Jones wasn't complaining about some of the good fortune that's fallen his way when he spoke with MiLB.com after the streak reached 20 games, but on Tuesday he needed nothing of the sort. Inland Empire's center fielder laced a single to center field on the second pitch of the game and hardly slowed from there. Jones bounced a single through the right side in the second inning and, after grounding out to third base in the fourth, drove a triple to right in the sixth.

"That was the softest ball he hit all day, actually," Tracy said. "He hit a ball to lead off the game to left-center that was smoked. He hit a ball through the middle that was smoked. The ball he hit to right was just a ball out away from him. He stayed right with it and hit it the other way. He got a ball up in the air and in Lancaster, as we know, you get a ball up there and it can take off. It took off and just kept running away from the right fielder [Wilson Soriano].

"With his speed, as soon as you reach up and miss the ball and it gets by you as an outfielder, he's going to have a triple."

Jones led off the eighth with a single to center for his second career four-hit game and first since Aug. 13, 2016, when he was with Rookie-level Orem.

The 24-game streak eclipsed a pair of 23-gamers -- by former 66ers infielder Jose Rojas and former JetHawks shortstop Brendan Rodgers. Jones is batting .370 during the streak, steaming toward the end of the season after batting .167 with a .502 OPS in April with Class A Burlington.

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"It took him until a couple weeks into May before he really started to get going in Burlington," Tracy said. "He finished really strong there the last couple months he was there, but the biggest thing for me watching him since he's arrived is for a kid his age, the approach, his ability to lay off breaking pitches down and away, he's staying in his zone. He's getting strikes to hit. He's laying off balls, and when he's getting his strikes to hit, he's squaring them up with some pretty good regularity. You couldn't be more excited about a player that's his age."

The 20-year-old boosted his overall slash line to .362/.411/.569 in his 31st game in the leadoff spot for the 66ers.

"We've undergone an unbelievable amount of change to our roster," Tracy said. "It's been two or three different rosters almost with the amount of changes we've had of guys going up to Double-A. You go through that kind of change and wonder, you've got a whole new group of guys coming from low-A, how's the adjustment period going to be? But all of them, especially with 'Jam' up there at the top, have just done a terrific job coming up here and competing.

"Having a guy at the top that's hitting .360 or whatever, getting on base as much as he is, he makes our offense go, and offensively -- even since we've gone through the changes -- we just continue to hit. He's a huge reason why. Hitting is contagious, and him leading off certainly helps."

In a system that hasn't produced many elite prospects in recent years, Jones is giving Angels fans someone to be excited about. The excitement he expressed in this week's MiLB.com Toolshed isn't limited to his organization mates. His manager feels it about the Roswell, Georgia native.

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"He's terrific," Tracy said. "He plays the game 100 miles an hour. He plays harder all the time. He's a young kid. He's well-mannered: 'Yes, sir,' 'No, sir' all the time. He'll do whatever you ask him to do. When you're talking about a player of his caliber, talent-wise, he's one of the guys we're most excited about in our system. But then you throw the character on top of it and that's when you start to look at a guy and say, 'Man, we really have something here.'"

Rockies No. 8 prospect Garrett Hampson matched Jones' line, going 4-for-5 and finishing a homer shy of the cycle for Lancaster. No. 20 prospect Sam Hilliard delivered an RBI single, walked twice and scored three times.

Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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