Prospect Report: Jay Jackson

If you are looking for an under-the-radar starting pitching prospect with the potential to make an impact in 2010, the Cubs’ Jay Jackson may be your answer.  While his name may not be well known, at least not yet, the 6’1″, 195 pound 22-year old reached Triple-A in 2009 and is potentially on the precipice of making an impact.

He seemingly has the arsenal to make his presence felt, described by Baseball America, who ranked him has the team’s fourth best prospect:

“Jackson has good feel for four pitches that are average or better. His best offering is a fastball ranging from 90-95 mph. His mid-80s slider and high-70s curveball are distinct pitches that rate as above-average at times. He also has an effective changeup. He has a long arm action, but he’s so athletic that he repeats his high-three-quarters delivery easily. He’s fearless and fields his position well.”

He spent time across three levels in 2009, Single, Double and Triple-A, though the majority of those innings (82.2) were spent at Double-A.  Overall he posted a 2.98 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 127.0 innings.  He posted a K/9 of 8.6 and a BB/9 of 3.1.

The control, however, is a little misleading.  Let’s look at him by the level from 2009:

  • Single-A: 0.88 (41.0 innings)
  • Double-A: 4.10 (82.2 innings)
  • Triple-A: 4.50 (6.0 innings)

While it’s great that walked very few batters while at Single-A, that came against very inexperienced and undisciplined hitters.  His marks against the upper levels are far more telling and very worrisome.

There were 15 pitchers in the Major Leagues who pitched at least 140 innings and had a BB/9 of 4.00 or more.  Of those pitchers, only three had an ERA below 4.00 (Clayton Kershaw, Yovani Gallardo and Carlos Zambrano).  That should tell you something about his potential control issues.

Jackson also saw his flyball rate rise and his groundball rate fall as he jumped from Single to Double-A, but those numbers remained reasonable:

  • Single-A: 32.0 FB%, 47.6% GB%
  • Double-A: 38.5% FB%, 40.6% GB%

Those are numbers you can live with, especially since he continued to limit opponents HR, with a HR/9 of 0.74 at Double-A.  He also posted a realistic .293 BABIP while there, so it is possible for him to post usable WHIPs, assuming he can avoid handing out free passes.

Unfortunately, that seems like a very big if.

The ninth round draft pick by the Cubs in 2008, it clearly appears that he needs more time at the upper levels before he makes an impact.  We’ve seen the type of patience that Lou Pinella has when it comes to control (remember the Rich Hill debacle), so if he struggles it could do more harm than good.

Still, having had a cup of coffee at Triple-A in 2009 and armed with extremely good stuff, it is possible that he gets a look for the Major League team in 2010.  I wouldn’t make a move on him unless you are in the deepest of dynasty leagues, but I’d certainly keep an eye on him and see what develops.

What are your thoughts on Jackson?  How good can he be?  When will he make his Major League debut?

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