Taylor Jones was told early on that, as senior signing from college, he was going to have to work his way from the depths of the Houston Astros system.
If the steady ride of the right-handed first baseman continues, he’s likely to hit that pinnacle sooner than later.
Jones has soared through nearly every level of the minor leagues in each of the four professional seasons he’s been in the Houston system and has continued with his lights-out play this season in Round Rock.
“(The progression has) probably been a little faster than anticipated,” Jones said. “I’ve been trying to keep up, produce when I can and kind of continue to build myself as a player.”
Jones is in the top three on the team in runs (60), hits (89), doubles (21), RBIs (64) and home runs (17), while his .291 average is fifth among players that have appeared in at least five games.
He tore the roof off the Double-A level in Corpus Christi last season, blasting 13 home runs with 63 RBIs and being named the Texas League ALl-Star game MVP before getting called up to Triple-A level for the season half of the season.
“I had a good year last year and figured some things out, especially offensively,” Jones said. “I’m just kind of carrying it over to this year and just trying to put something together. I’m understanding the Triple-A pitching.”
He said the Astros’ hitting approach is a little differently than the styles he grew up with in college and high school and it’s about figuring out what approach best plays at this level, including focusing on hitting balls far instead of just hard.
A native of Washington, Jones attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, a little less than 300 miles from his hometown of Covington on the West Coast of the state.
“It’s a really good community, that was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to go there,” Jones said. “It’s kind of tough with the weather up there because it gets kind of cold. That can be tough, but it’s a good program and they’re building.”
He started as a pitcher, primarily coming out of the bullpen as a freshman and serving almost exclusively as a starter as a junior. He made the full-time move to first base before his junior year and wound up on the All-WCC First-Team.
He was drafted in the 35th round by the Chicago Cubs in 2015 but returned to Gonzaga for his senior season, where he earned All-WCC Second-Team honors before getting drafted by the Astros in the 19th round in 2016.
Jones and Express infielder Nick Tanielu went to rival high school and met a couple of times when Jone was with the Bulldogs and the slightly older Tanielu was at Washington State.
He said when he first got to Corpus Christi, it was a ‘game within the game’ to stay focused on the task at hand while also trying to deal with the high temperatures of a Texas summer, a far cry from the Pacific Northwest.
Jones doesn’t look at stats too closely, other than some of the deeper analytical number that the Astros put an emphasis on and isn’t always readily available on the team website.
At Dell Diamond, he has a .207 average and .683 on-base plus slugging (OPS) percentage with six home runs and 23 RBIs in 40 games. Away from Round Rock, those numbers skyrocket to .366 average with 1.119 OPS with 11 HRs and 41 RBIs in 45 games.
“I really can’t put my finger on it,” he said. “The coaches asked me if I could see all right. I’ve noticed where I’ve had games that the ball bounces one way. There’s a difference and I’m still trying to figure it out.”
The Express hit the road for three games at the New Orleans Baby Cakes beginning Friday night and return to Dell Dimond for a three-game set against the Omaha Storm Chasers beginning on July 23.
As for the future of Jones, Houston’s everyday first baseman Tyler White is 28-years-old and backup Yuli Gurriel is now 35.
“Sometimes you can’t look at that stuff, at the end of the day, the team has got to make those decisions,” Jones said. “You’ve just got to keep doing your job and whatever happens, happens.”