St. Louis Cardinals outfield prospect Daryl Jones, who graduated from Spring (Texas) High School in 2005, took a giant step forward in his pursuit to make the big leagues when he was added to the 40-man roster Nov. 24 in order to protect him from the Rule-5 draft.
Jones hit .279 with three homers and 29 RBI in 80 games last season with Double-A Springfield and was named to the 2009 Texas League North Division All-Star team.
The 22-year-old Jones got a taste of new Busch Stadium and the gracious Cardinals fans as a member of the U.S. Team in the 11th annual XM All-Star Futures Game July 12 in St. Louis.
However, Jones battled a lingering left quadriceps injury over the course of the regular season, which forced him to spend a substantial amount of time on the disabled list. Now, it appears he’s healthy and ready to take his game to the next level.
“It was great stepping out on the field in front of the hometown fans,” Jones said. “They gave me a warm welcome and it meant a lot to me. I really wanted to play in that game and I hope to be able to step up to the big club soon and make an impact for the Cardinals and the city of St. Louis.”
According to Baseball America, Jones was the Cards’ No. 7 prospect heading into the 2009 season, but now finds himself ranked as the top offensive prospect after the trade of third baseman Brett Wallace to Oakland July 24 in exchange for three-time All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday.
He’s regarded as the best athlete in St. Louis’ farm system based on his raw ability, power and exceptional baserunning skills.
While at Spring High School, the former standout wide receiver earned football scholarship offers to several Division I programs, including Florida, Nebraska and Texas, but decided to forgo his commitment to play collegiate baseball at Rice University in favor of signing with the Cardinals.
Scouts often compare Jones’ skills to outfielder Cliff Floyd as he continues to capture the attention of Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak and the entire front office.
“It’s truly a great organization with a strong tradition,” Jones said. “I’m motivated and hungry to keep advancing and I know I’m on the right path. I just have to keep working hard, get better and come to Spring Training on a mission to be successful.”
After being selected by the Cardinals in the third round (110th overall) of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Jones began his minor league career in rookie ball with Johnson City of the Appalachian League prior to being promoted to Class A Quad Cities in 2006-07 and Class-A Advanced Palm Beach in 2008.
While at Palm Beach, Jones began to show his potential by hitting .326 with seven homers, 35 RBI, 100 hits and a .406 OBP, which earned him a spot on the 2008 FSL South Division All-Star team and a promotion to Double-A Springfield.
Jones concluded the 2008 season with Springfield hitting .290 with six homers, 14 RBI and a .409 OBP, as well as not committing a single error in the field.
Recently, Jones played for the Surprise Rafters in the Arizona Fall League and joined Astros top prospect Jason Castro as a participant in the fourth-annual AFL’s Rising Stars Game for the West Division.
Astros right fielder Hunter Pence, Atlanta Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson, Boston Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun and New York Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes are among the young major leaguers who have previously appeared in this game.
Jones continues to work hard this offseason while spending time in the North Houston area.
Earlier this week, he assisted Pence at the Hunter Pence All-Star Camp 2009 for three, one-day clinics at Legends Sports Complex in The Woodlands, Texas.
“It’s always fun getting a chance to help kids improve their baseball skills,” Jones said. “It’s great to be able to be part of something positive and influence young lives, especially in my hometown.”
With the Cardinals still facing several question this offseason in the free-agent market, particularly in their attempt to re-sign Holliday, Jones recognizes the possibility of making the team out of Spring Training or earning a call up at some point in 2010.
All-Star outfielder Ryan Ludwick and young phenom Colby Rasmus have virtually locked down starting jobs in right and center field, respectfully, next season.
Although Mozeliak hopes to re-sign Holliday, it’s possible that St. Louis could turn their attention toward pursuing two-time All-Star outfielder and World Series champion Johnny Damon to fill the void in left field.
“My goal is to get Tony LaRussa to look my way in Spring Training,” Jones said. “I have to go in there and perform and not worry about depth charts or anything like that. With good play, I hope to make it a tough decision on them.”
Source: Houston Astros Examiner: Stephen Goff