Former TCU shortstop Taylor Featherston was a three-time all-conference performer. He was a starter on the Frogs’ 2010 College World Series team. And, after hitting .335 as a junior last year, Featherston was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the fifth round of the MLB Amateur Draft.
Naturally, with Featherston gone, a dropoff would be expected at shortstop.
If anything, there’s been an upgrade — in the field, at least.
Keaton Jones, a wiry 6-foot-2 true freshman, has committed just two errors all season and will enter Friday’s game against San Diego State with a .986 fielding percentage, an impressive clip at any position, especially shortstop, where Jones has racked up 90 assists.
Last year, Featherston had 27 errors, the same amount he had as a freshman in 2009.
Only Jason Coats and Braden Mattson have a higher fielding percentage among TCU’s qualifying players. Both are perfect in the field, but both also play less demanding positions, with Coats spending his time in left field and with Mattson at first base.
Perhaps a more telling sign of Jones’ impact has been his ability to stay in the lineup, starting 33 of the Frogs’ 34 games, while hitting a team-low .161, a number that was 20 points lower before he went 2-for-2 against the Univeristy of Lousiana-Monroe on Tuesday night, just his second multi-hit game of the year.
Jones tinkered with his stance over the last week, allowing him to see the ball better, he said.
Head coach Jim Schlossnagle said Jones’ success at the plate Tuesday night was nice, but that’s not the reason he’s out there.
“He’s made an adjustment in his stance in the last week that’s helped him, but I could care less,” Schlossnagle said. “He just needs to keep catching those ground balls like he’s doing.”
Jones said he was a decent infielder in high school but knew he had to improve his footwork. That happened just after Christmas break when Jones began working on specifics with TCU first-year coach Chuck Jeroloman.
“I always had pretty good hands,” Jones said. “Other than that, my footwork kind of sucked, which is where Coach J comes into play.”
And while his spot in the lineup is pretty locked up, regardless of how he does at the plate, Jones said he still wanted to hit.
“I don’t really think of it like that,” Jones said. “I take pride in my play, and I’d rather help the team out any way possible, especially if I’m hitting. If I’m in the lineup then I want to get on base and score some runs. That’s ultimately how you win.”