While many prospects find themselves mired at a specific rung of an organization's minor league ladder or bouncing up and down between minor league affiliates, Beltsville native Kennard Jones's progression through San Diego's farm system has, so far, been steadily upward.

Jones, 22, did not make his professional debut until late in the 2002 season, but already he is the leadoff hitter and starting center fielder for the Padres' Class AA affiliate, the Mobile BayBears.

"He's doing well," said Mobile Manager Gary Jones. "He's going about his business, he loves to go out and compete on a daily basis, and nobody outworks him."

Jones, a High Point High School graduate, was moved from short-season Eugene to less-advanced Class A Fort Wayne in his rookie season. He started in Fort Wayne last year, but after three months and a trip to the Midwest League's All-Star Game, he was sent to advanced Class A Lake Elsinore. He returned to Lake Elsinore for the first two months of this year before earning a promotion to Mobile.

The most recent step, from A to AA, is widely regarded as the toughest in the minor leagues. But the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Jones has handled it well. Heading into last night's game, he was hitting .231 with 21 runs scored, seven doubles, five runs batted in and two errors in 45 games.

Jones, who was named the Padres' No. 8 prospect by Baseball America before this season, has above-average speed, Gary Jones said, and has stolen four bases this season but has been caught stealing as many times.

"He just needs to go out and play," Gary Jones said. "The more you play, the more mistakes you make and then you correct them and become consistent. He's doing what it takes to become a good ballplayer on the major league level."