We have hit that point of the minor league season when a lot of players are crossing the 100 at bat threshold. Brett Jackson, widely speculated to be on the Starlin Castro Express, will almost certainly get to that number this weekend. Jackson is playing very well in Tennessee. Despite a recent mini-slump he is still hitting right about .300, and has 3 home runs to go with 9 stolen bases. So should we be expecting the arrival of Brett Jackson in the near future? That, and a few other minor league notes, after the break.
So, is Jackson ready? In a word, no.
First of all, it makes no sense to call up Jackson when Mike Quade can’t manage to find regular at bats for Tyler Colvin. Colvin is trapped in that destructive cycle of needing at bats to get his bat going, but needing to get his bat going before he’ll be given any at bats. Alfonso Soriano is hitting just .244 off right handed pitching, but even that’s not enough to give Colvin some playing time. If the Cubs can’t manage to play the young, left handed hitting outfielder already on the team, what in the world would they do with another one? Brett Jackson is a big part of the Cubs’ future, but so is Tyler Colvin. Until the Cubs can find regular at bats for Colvin, it makes absolutely no sense to promote Jackson.
Which is fine, because Jackson isn’t quite ready yet. As I mentioned, he has been in a bit of slump lately and I would much rather wait until he is on a hot streak before he is brought up. More importantly, however, are his numbers with runners in scoring position. In 22 at bats, he has 10 strikeouts. He does have 7 walks and is hitting .273 and slugging over .540 in that situation, but striking out in nearly half of his RISP at bats is a problem. His overall strikeout rate is only around 25%, which isn’t bad for an RBI guy, but no hitter relied on for power and RBIs can afford to strikeout in 50% of those situations. The problem with strikeouts with runners in scoring position is almost certainly a very fixable one. He’s probably pressing and trying to do too much. Good coaching should help correct it. I’d rather that correction be made in the anonymity of Tennessee than under the spotlight in Wrigley.
In general, however, I am in favor of getting both Jackson and Josh Vitters into the majors as fast as possible. Rudy Jaramillo is the best hitting coach in the business and, particularly in the case of Vitters, I think his influence can only be beneficial for the young guys. It has to be at the right time and in the right situation, though. This is neither the right time nor the right situation for either guy. It’s possible the time may not be right until Tennessee’s season ends, we’ll just have to see. The Cubs have shown no inclination to rush either player, though, and that is definitely for the good.
Three other bits of minor league news:
Doug Davis pitched well in his first minor league start in Daytona, and should be on track for a start in Iowa followed by an arrival in Wrigley.
Peoria Chief Cameron Greathouse flirted with a no hitter on Wednesday. Greathouse is one of the more promising left handed starters in the system. He got off to a bit of a rough start this season, but giving up one hit in seven innings is a great way to fix that. Having Elliot Soto and Pierre LePage turn a triple play behind him certainly didn’t hurt either.
And finally, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo has updated his Top 10 Cubs’ Prospect list. Most of this list is no surprise to anyone who follows the Cubs or reads Cubbies Crib regularly, but Number 10 might make you do a double take. Yes, that is Robert Whitenack. Whitenack is having a great season, but I think Mayo is jumping the gun a little here. In the 2011 Prospect Handbook published by Baseball America, Whitenack was the 11th best… right handed starter. And that is after we take Chris Archer off the list. Jumping from Number 11 on the RHSP list to Number 10 overall in six starts is just a little fast for me. If he keeps pitching like this, he could be Top 5 by the end of the year, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’m not sure what Reggie Golden is doing on that list either, but that might be a whole different column.