The player that most Cubs fans have had their eye on throughout the entire season has been top prospect Brett Jackson. At the beginning of the season, the expectation for Jackson was that the outfielder would be on the same pace as Starlin Castro was last season and make his debut in May or June. However, there were a couple of obstacles that blocked that scenario from happening. Ironically enough, the two obstacles coincided with each other.
In order for Jackson to make his major league debut, the Cubs will first have to find a way to move Marlon Byrd. The Cubs were in the early stages of shopping Byrd earlier this season, but then Byrd was sidelined for about a month with several facial fractures resulting from being hit in the face with a pitch. The same time that Byrd went on the disabled list, Brett Jackson was also placed on the disabled list with the Tennessee Smokies after suffering a hand injury. Meaning Jackson was unable to replace Byrd in center field while the veteran was recovering from his injury.
Shortly after he returned from his hand injury, Jackson was promoted to the Triple A level of the Cubs organization. After struggling initially with the Iowa Cubs, Jackson has turned it on of late and appears to be ready to take his act to the next level.
In 91 at bats with the Iowa Cubs this season, Jackson is hitting .297/.393/.615/1.008 with 7 home run and 13 RBIs. More impressive than that is in his last 10 games with the Iowa Cubs, Jackson is hitting .389/.488/.861/1.349 with 5 home runs. The Cubs have always suspected that Jackson would be a better hitter as he progresses through their system, and they believe that he will only improve once he begins to face major league pitching on an everyday basis. If Jackson’s production with the Iowa Cubs is any indicator, then the Cubs’ top prospect may be ready to take his talents to the windy city.
Even though Jackson appears to be ready, the Cubs may not be ready. The Cubs’ front office had the chance to trade center fielder Marlon Byrd before the July 31 non waiver trade deadline, and a pretty good one at that, as the Atlanta Braves were believed to be willing to give up a haul of prospects in order to acquire Byrd from the Cubs. But the Cubs didn’t have any intention of trading Byrd, and all indications are that Byrd will be with the team to start the 2012 season. The Cubs are planning on playing Jackson in center field once he is called up, meaning they first will have to decide to what do with Byrd. If they are not going to trade the veteran outfielder, then Jackson may be forced to wait even longer before he can make his major league debut.
But, there is way where both Jackson and Byrd can co-exist in the same outfield. In order for that to happen, the Cubs would have to find some way to rid themselves of Alfonso Soriano. The Cubs tried to push Soriano on any team that would listen before the trade deadline, and you can believe that they will be doing the same thing this month once the outfielder clears waivers. Though, it still seems unlikely that the Cubs will be able to move Soriano during the season. Though, there is a belief that this will be Soriano’s last season with the Cubs. If that is the case, the Cubs could then shift Byrd to the left field, thus, creating the opening in center field for Jackson.
Byrd’s contract runs through the 2012 season, which would seem to fit in well with the Cubs future plans for their outfield. Matt Szczur will not be ready by Opening Day 2012, but come 2013, Szczur could be ready to take over the left field position from Byrd. The Cubs intend their future outfield to consist of Szczur, Jackson, and Tyler Colvin.