AFL: Brett Jackson

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In 2009 the Cubs landed outfielder Brett Jackson with the 31st overall pick. Since then, about all he has done is hit, hit, and hit some more.

Brett is a left handed hitter who could play any outfield position, and has played mainly in center in the minors. He started 2009 in the rookie league, and by the end of 2010 had made it to AA. His longest stop was in High A Daytona, where he played in just 67 games before being promoted again. With all that moving around, it is hard to gauge just how much power he has, though a career slugging percentage of .491 is a very healthy indicator. But Brett is not just a power bat. In his two minor league seasons, he has 43 steals and has only been caught 13 times.

The news is not all good. He is consistently striking out in about 20% of his at bats, which is roughly normal for a power hitter but higher than I like to see for a guy still in the minors. He walks slightly more than half as often as he strikes out. This put Brett in the middle of an interesting question that has plagued the Cubs in recent years. When you have a guy who can hit for power and has good speed, should he be more patient and play to get on base, or should he be more aggressive and try to maximize his home runs? Ultimately, that answer will be up to Brett and his coaching staff, but a career on base percentage of .402 suggests he’d rather help the team any way he can, not just with the homer.

So, how about his AFL campaign? Has Brett been struggling against some of the minor’s top pitching prospects? Well, he has been struggling all right, but with a nasty infection. Brett Jackson was sent home early, but should be easily ready to go for spring training, and might appear in Camp Colvin workouts with the Cubs strength coach that did wonders for Tyler last year.

His brief time in Arizona showed little, however. In 12 AB Brett smacked 3 hits, including a double. He scored three times, drove in 5, had a stolen base, walked once and struck out five times. There is almost nothing to be learned from his Arizona campaign. 12 AB just don’t give us enough of a sample to draw any sort of a conclusion.

And in 2011? I suspect Brett will be one of the minor league players in spring training that spends a lot of time working with Rudy Jaramillo. Brett’s walk numbers aren’t bad, indicating he has a good judgement of the strike zone, but he is striking out too often for comfort, meaning there might be something with the mechanics of his swing that can be improved. He will likely start next year in Double A, and I do not expect him to stay there for more than half a season. He will hit his way into Iowa, and then things get interesting.

Corey Patterson. Felix Pie. Both were highly touted Cubs outfield prospects who failed miserably at the major league level and were unceremoniously dumped off on Baltimore. Neither one could hit major league pitching, particularly the breaking ball.

Tyler Colvin. Less highly touted Cubs outfield prospect who hit his way onto the team, and then pretty much just kept hitting.

Is Jackson a Patterson, or is he a Colvin? The guess here is that he is more of a Colvin. I strongly doubt the Cubs will promote Jackson to the majors until they have reason to believe he can hit at that level, and that they will spend all the time necessary to make sure he can hit breaking pitches when he arrives. After all, there are no openings in the Cubs outfield until Byrd’s contract runs out. That likely means Brett will stay in Iowa for awhile, but it should result in a better career over all. Look for Brett to get a September call up in 2011 and be making a case to be promoted to the majors during the 2012 season, if he doesn’t break with the team from spring training.