The Chicago White Sox traded veteran pitcher Matt Thornton to the Boston Red Sox Friday evening, receiving outfield prospect Brandon Jacobs in return. Here's the scoop on the newest member of the White Sox farm system.
Brandon Jacobs, OF: Jacobs was drafted by the Red Sox in the 10th round in 2009, from high school in Lilburn, Georgia. He was committed to football at Auburn but Boston changed his mind with $750,000, which would change a lot of minds. He hit .242/.308/.417 in 64 games in the New York-Penn League in 2010, then broke out (we thought) with a strong '11 season, hitting .303/.376/.505 with 17 homers and 30 steals for Low-A Greenville in the Sally League.
Jacobs looked like one of the best prospects in the system heading into 2012, but his season was rather disappointing: .252/.322/.410 with 13 homers, 39 walks, and 128 strikeouts in 437 at-bats. 2013 hasn't been much different: .244/.334/.440 with 11 homers, 33 walks, and 88 strikeouts in 81 games, 291 at-bats for Salem, followed by a 2-for-6 showing in two games after a promotion to Double-A Portland.
A right-handed hitter and thrower, Jacobs is listed at 6-1, 225, born December 8, 1990. He's a fine athlete with plenty of tools, including above average speed and raw power. He has spent most of his career in left field with adequate defensive results; he can play center or right field in a pinch, but his weakish arm fits best in left. This puts more pressure on his bat.
Alas, aside from the Greenville run, Jacobs has yet to live up to his full physical potential. He's had significant problems making contact against High-A pitching, limiting his batting average and on-base percentage. He'll make an effort to work counts and will draw some walks, but his strikeout rate remains stubbornly higher than one per game and he seems to have trouble reading breaking pitches. Obviously this will be an even bigger problem at higher levels, but at age 22, Jacobs still has time to improve.
The White Sox have a liking for toolsy outfielders, and he certainly fits that mold. Jacobs is a lottery ticket, but Thornton is a 36-year-old reliever with slipping skills. Picking up a Grade C prospect with enough physical potential to improve is a good move for Chicago. From Boston's point of view, getting some bullpen help now is more important than keeping a stagnating Grade C/C+ prospect who may, or may not, help two or three years in the future. The deal makes sense for both teams.