Prospect of the Day: Brett Jackson, OF, Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs outfield prospect Brett Jackson is on a tear for Triple-A Iowa, hitting .429 with six homers in his last 10 games. What skills will he bring when he arrives in Wrigley Field?
Brett Jackson was drafted by the Cubs in the first round in 2009 from the University of California. His college performance was erratic. After riding the bench most of the time as a freshman, he hit .307/.404/.441 with 12 steals and a 24/36 BB/K in 202 at-bats as a sophomore in '08, impressing scouts with his tools. In '09 he hit .321/.410/.564 with 11 steals, but his strikeout rate shot way up, with a 29/61 BB/K in 218 at-bats. While he got good reviews for his athleticism and ceiling, many scouts questioned his swing mechanics and ability to make contact against better pitching. This probably cost him 10-15 spots in the draft before the Cubs pulled the trigger at 31st overall.
His career got off to a good start: .330/.443/.398 in 88 at-bats for Boise in the Northwest League, followed by a .295/.383/.545 mark in 112 at-bats for Low-A Peoria. Contact issues remained, as he fanned 52 times in 50 games between the two levels. His strikeout rate remained rather high in '10, with 126 whiffs in 128 games between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee. However, he produced at both levels, hitting .316/.420/.517 and .276/.366/.465 respectively, also drawing 73 walks and stealing 30 bases.
Jackson returned to Tennessee to begin '11 and hit .256/.373/.443 in 246 at-bats, with 10 homers, 15 steals, 45 walks, and 74 strikeouts in 67 games. Recently promoted to Triple-A Iowa, he's found Pacific Coast League pitching to his liking with a .291/.392/.616 mark, including the aforementioned .429 and six homers in his last 10 games. In 86 at-bats over 24 games, he's fanned 30 times while drawing 15 walks. Overall on the year, he's hitting .265/.378/.488 with 17 homers, 60 walks, 104 strikeouts in 332 at-bats, while swiping 18 in 25 attempts.
A left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, he's listed at 6-2, 210 pounds and turned 23 years old last week. He has above-average running speed and makes good use of this in the outfield. He's played center field primarily and has enough range and arm strength to handle the position. Jackson is aggressive on the bases and a talented stealer, swiping 61 in 80 career attempts, including 36 in 47 attempts in Double-A/Triple-A.
Jackson has above-average bat speed to go with his above-average running speed. His upper cut swing should deliver 20-homer power as he matures. He works counts and will take walks, but he's vulnerable to strikeouts. He's not likely to develop into a .300 hitter, but if he can hit .250-.270 in the majors as he's done in the minors, he should draw enough walks to keep his OBP at more-than-acceptable levels.
I expect Jackson will need some adjustment time when he reaches the majors, but his broad base of skills is very attractive. If he remains this hot we could see him in September, and we'll certainly see him sometime in 2012.