On Monday the Seattle Mariners and the Atlanta Braves made an all-prospect trade. The Mariners shipped outfielder Alex Jackson down south in exchange for a pair of pitching prospects: right-handers Max Povse and Rob Whalen. Let's take a look.
Alex Jackson, OF: Alex Jackson was a high school star in San Diego, California, and a fixture on top prospect lists when he was drafted sixth-overall in 2014. He was supposed to be a very advanced bat who would hit for both power and average and reach the majors quickly. It hasn't turned out that way: he was very ineffective in 2015, hitting .207/.318/.365 in short-A and Low-A, and improved to just .243/.332/.408 in 2016. In 686 minor league at-bats he's hit 43 doubles and 21 home runs, showing his power, but has fanned 223 times while hitting .233/.327/.399 overall.
Jackson is age 20, a right-handed hitter and thrower listed at 6-2, 215. Although he's obviously very strong and can hit the ball a long way, his swing mechanics have deteriorated since high school and minor league pitchers have been able to overpower him more often than not. He has a strong throwing arm and has settled in as a solid defensive outfielder, but without more hitting his other skills won't be enough for him to reach the majors.
Youth and pedigree remain his key strengths and perhaps a new organization and a fresh set of coaching eyes can get him back to where he was as an amateur.
Max Povse, RHP: Povse was drafted in the third round in 2014 from UNC-Greensboro. He split 2016 between High-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Mississippi, posting a combined 3.36 ERA in 158 innings with a 139/29 K/BB.
Povse is a 6-8, 185 pounder born August 23, 1993. His fastball is generally 90-94 MPH with occasional higher reports, and right-handers can find him intimidating due to his size. He can mix in a decently solid curveball and change-up, and while not overpowering his pitches can play up due to his ability to throw strikes and paint the corners, making the whole greater than the sum of the parts. He projects as a number four starter.
Rob Whalen, RHP: Whalen was originally drafted by the New York Mets in the 12th round in 2012 from high school in Haines City, Florida. He was traded to the Braves as part of the Kelly Johnson deal in the summer of 2015. In 2016 he posted a 2.40 ERA in 120 innings in Double-A and Triple-A with a 112/44 K/BB, then made five starts in the major posting a 6.57 ERA with a 25/12 K/BB in 25 innings.
Whalen is listed at 6-2, 200, born January 31, 1994. Like Povse, Whalen has a fastball in the low-90s but makes the most of it due to above-average command and a full assortment of secondary pitches including a curve, a slider, and a change-up. While Whalen is not as tall as Povse, he is well-built physically and does a good job repeating his mechanics and keeping hitters off-stride. He also projects as a number four starter.
ANALYSIS: What you think of this trade depends on how optimistic you are about Jackson solving his swing problems. He certainly has more physical upside than Povse and Whalen, however the two pitchers are much closer to the majors and have better track records of professional success to this point.