One of the biggest storylines of the 2011 season will be how the Chicago Cubs incorporate some of their top prospects into the major league level as they try gauge what type of team they have for the future. One player that is expected to make his major league debut at some point this season is outfielder Brett Jackson. Even though we are still in the opening month of the major league season, the idea of a Brett Jackson watch is beginning to look like a real possibility.
The inevitable Brett Jackson watch was first mentioned by Chicago Cubs Online. The report does an excellent job in identifying how Jackson’s path to the majors is similar to that of Starlin Castro’s last season. Jackson has gotten off to an incredible start with the Tennessee Smokies hitting .480/.563/.720 in his first 25 at bats of the season ( 7 games). In the coming weeks, Jackson will obviously reach over 100 at bats for the season. Which is where Starlin Castro was last season, when he had 109 at bats with the Tennessee Smokies before the Cubs called him up.
When it comes to calling up top prospects the obvious question is “how much playing time will the player get in the major leagues?” General manager Jim Hendry has already made it evident that when a top prospect is called up, he is inserted right into the starting lineup. Going back to Starlin Castro last season, as he immediately became the starting shortstop on the major league after being called up from double-A.
That could be the case for Brett Jackson this season as far as center field is concerned. The Cubs can opt to go two different ways when they decide to call-up Jackson to the major leagues. The first–and most likely–option is that Marlon Byrd shifts to right field, and Kosuke Fukudome and Tyler Colvin move to the bench. While Fukudome has done nothing to earn this demotion this season, he is most valuable to the Cubs as a role player coming off the bench. This move would also make sense considering that Tyler Colvin has not looked like the everyday player that the Cubs were hoping he was. Granted it is still early and Colvin could turn things around.
The other option would be for Jackson to become the everyday starter in right field, with Colvin and Fukudome moving to the bench. This does not seem like a realistic option at this point as Jackson figures to fit best in the center field position. In time, though, Jackson could become a corner outfielder.
Before Jackson makes it to the major league team, the Cubs may want him to get some work in at the triple-A level with the Iowa Cubs. That was the original plan for Castro last season, but the Cubs avoided it in an effort to provide a spark to the major league team. However, this season there is no need for the Cubs to rush. As the saying goes, patience is a virtue. With five outfielders already on the major league team and capable outfielders with the Iowa Cubs, the Cubs should feel no urgency to call-up Jackson.
It still is too early to start the official Brett Jackson watch, but the time is coming. If Jackson continues to tear up double-A pitching with the Tennessee Smokies, he will more than likely be brought up to the next level and then so forth. Late May or early June may be the best guess of when we can expect to hear more rumblings about Jackson’s arrival.