Alex Jackson entered the 2014 draft heralded as the top high school bat in the nation, with some even arguing that he was the best athlete in the draft. Weeks of speculation had Jackson as the overall top pick, so when the Seattle Mariners were able to lock his then 70-grade power and advanced hitting approach at the sixth pick, they thought they had found a steal.
It has been anything but thus far in Jackson’s young career.
Jackson came out of Rancho Bernardo High School in California. He was already a specimen, with the 6-foot-2, 215 pound projectable frame that would make it easy to convert from his high school position of catcher to right field. Scouts drooled over his right-handed power bat, and with his powerful right-handed cannon he developed as a catcher along with the ability to hit for average, many felt Jackson would be fast tracked to the majors.
Two years later, that fast track has slowed down quite a bit.
Jackson had the half season debut that the Mariners had hoped he would. He slashed .280/.349/.476, but there was little power and he struggled mightily finding his feel for the strike zone. He had only six doubles and two home runs in his 82 at bats, while striking out 24 times and walking just nine. Still, he was a mere 18-year old playing in the Arizona League.
In 2015, the Mariners jumped Jackson to his full-season debut. It was nightmarish, as Jackson hit .157, looking completely lost at the plate striking out 35 times and walking six in 108 at bats. More frighteningly, he hit no home runs, and of his 17 hits, only six were doubles. Questions about Jackson’s free swinging and his projected power arose as he was sent down to Short Season.
Once back with the AquaSox in the Northwest League, Jackson improved, but was still not looking much like a top-ten draft pick. The positive was that he seemed to find his power stroke, raking eight home runs and 11 doubles, but he still struck out at an alarmingly-high rate. His season stat line looked like this: .207/.318/.365 with eight home runs and 17 doubles while striking out 29 percent of the time.
Those are hardly the numbers a team wants to see in the sophomore campaign of a guy many feel is their top prospect, especially after a strong debut. In Jackson’s defense, he was limited to 76 games as he dealt with shoulder woes for much of the season. His issues, however, seemed to stem from the strike zone and the inability to lay off a pitch.
Jackson began 2016 in extended spring training, not because of last season’s shoulder injury, but to work on his pitch selection and swing mechanics. The Mariners held him out of live game action until May 19, when they finally assigned him to the Clinton LumberKings, returning to where he played so miserably last season. In his first game back, Jackson showed off that power, and blasted a home run in his return. Hopes were high that Jackson perhaps “found it” and was ready to turn it around.
Is Alex Jackson finally growing into his top prospect role? Find out by clicking on the link below and reading my full article at Today’s Knuckleball.