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Carolina notes: Hillcats' Jones filling holes

No. 2 Indians prospect making better contact in Lynchburg return
Nolan Jones boasts a .408 on-base percentage, reaching safely in 27 of his first 28 games with Lynchburg this season. (Ken Inness/
May 8, 2019

The first couple of seasons of professional baseball for Nolan Jones had one commonality: He left his sessions in the batting cage feeling confident. The Indians' No. 2 prospect worked on the areas he felt comfortable with and strengthened those attributes.But there came a point at which he realized his

The first couple of seasons of professional baseball for Nolan Jones had one commonality: He left his sessions in the batting cage feeling confident. The Indians' No. 2 prospect worked on the areas he felt comfortable with and strengthened those attributes.
But there came a point at which he realized his approach in the cage needed to evolve. Jones, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Tuesday, needed to fill the holes in his swing to become a complete hitter. So he changed what he worked on, focusing on his weaknesses and allowing his approach at the plate to become more balanced this season with Class A Advanced Lynchburg.

"I was always comfortable with working on things that I was good at, going into the cage and feeling good," Jones said. "But once I kind of went in there and grinded on the things that I'm not good at and the things I don't feel comfortable with, I think that's when we develop into the players we really want to be and start finding our true potential into having the success we want. Everybody likes going into the cages feeling comfortable, but not being able to hit every pitch puts holes in you as a player. I think trying to round yourself out really will ultimately in the end get you to where you want to be."
That work has produced a better contact rate for the second-round selection from the 2016 Draft. While he has not hit a home run this season, he's seeing the ball in the zone more efficiently and boasts a .408 on-base percentage thanks to reaching base in 27 of his first 28 games with the Hillcats this season.
"Honestly, my contact rates have gone up a lot from last year. I think I'm swinging at better pitches this year," he said. "The power numbers haven't exactly shown yet, but I think I'm in a good spot as far as knowing the strike zone and knowing what I can hit and what I can hit hard."

The 6-foot-4, 185-pound Jones, who is the No. 63 overall prospect and eighth-rated third baseman, according to, is using the entire field this season with his new approach. According to FanGraphs, Jones is hitting nearly 43% of his batted balls to the opposite field, on pace to eclipse the 38.9% he enjoyed with Class A Lake County last season before being promoted to Lynchburg for the final month of the campaign.
Jones credited his offseason work for the success he's experienced so far. He said he works on drills to allow him to get into the right position, utilizing those efforts to feel the power loading into his back hip and get him on point early.
"I think it was a combination of understanding what I do well as a hitter and what I don't do well as a hitter and kind of challenging that every day," he said. "I struggled hitting pitches up in the zone last year, so kind of challenging myself to work on that. I've been hitting those really well this year. Kind of challenging myself to make myself an all-around hitter and being able to hit every single pitch rather than just being able to crush my favorite pitch."
Jones has four extra-base hits and seven RBIs so far this season after posting 21 doubles, 19 home runs and 66 RBIs in 120 games last season, but he feels he's making progress. He is consistently getting on base and understands it is only a matter of time before his ground balls find the holes and his line drives begin sailing over the outfield walls.
"Results are an awesome thing, but it's still an everyday thing. I do still think I have holes as a hitter," Jones said. "I don't think I'm as good as I want to be, so I definitely think it's nice to see stuff like that, but I think there's definitely a lot more work to be done. I think every day is finding things to work on and finding ways to making yourself better. Even if it's working on things you've been working on or if you're finding new things, new drills or stuff like that, it's definitely reassuring, but finding new ways to get better is always a positive."

In brief

Dashed away: Potomac shortstop David Masters enjoyed the Nationals' front-loaded schedule with 13 of their first 22 games coming against the Winston-Salem Dash. A Sunday rainout canceled a doubleheader and the two teams won't play again until the second half, which is a major disappointment given Masters' success against the Dash. The 14th-round selection from the 2013 Draft is tied for the Carolina League with eight homers, and seven of those have come against the Dash. He went 15-for-46 with eight extra-base hits and 14 RBIs versus Winston-Salem while going 8-for-37 with six RBIs against other teams.
Zoned in: Winston-Salem second baseman Nick Madrigal began his professional career without a strikeout in his first 72 plate appearances, spanning stints with three different teams. The No. 5 White Sox prospect pulled off an even better feat to begin his second pro season. The first-round selection from the 2018 Draft went 17 games (67 at-bats and 75 plate appearances) without a strikeout, and he has struck out just four times in 94 at-bats so far this year. His most recent strikeout-less streak began April 7 and ended April 29.
Oh, what a relief it is: Myrtle Beach's bullpen was a cause of concern dating back to as recently as one week ago when it had a robust 4.28 ERA. But a seven-game homestand allowed the group to get into a rhythm, with multiple relievers getting ample rest between appearances. The Pelicans, despite going 3-4 in the homestand, saw Down East and Salem combine to only score eight earned runs in 31 innings against the 'pen, good for 2.32 ERA. The Myrtle Beach bullpen ERA has dropped to 3.86 for the season.

Damien Sordelett is a contributor to