Prospect Report: Does Alex Jackson Still Have Potential Upside?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Alex Jackson was drafted in the first round of the 2014 draft as a catcher, though the Seattle Mariners shifted him to the outfield due to his bat.  However it never came together for him, as he owns a .242 career average in the minors and never hit more than 11 HR in a season.  That led to an offseason trade to Atlanta, where they have decided to shift him back behind the plate.  Off to a quick start (.291 with 9 HR over 117 AB), it’s fair to wonder just how quickly he’s going to be able to rise through the system.

Obviously there were questions in regards to both his offense and defense, and answering those questions at High-A is going to be difficult.  It’s been years since he’s caught, and the Braves are being conservative with their approach.  Over his first 29 games played only 13 came behind the dish, while he was deployed as the DH in the other 16 contests.

Opposing teams are trying to test him, with 25 SB attempts.  He’s caught 7 of 25, which isn’t a terrible number, but he’s also suffered from 3 passed balls and has been charged with 4 errors overall.  You knew it would be a work in progress, but it’s also going to slow the development of the 21-year old overall.

Then you have the bat, which has looked highly impressive.  Strikeouts have always been a question, so it’s important that he’s taken a step forward this season:

  • Low-A (2015, 163 AB) – 31.0%
  • Single-A (2015, 108 AB) – 28.9%
  • Single-A (2016, 333 AB) – 27.0%
  • High-A (2017, 117 AB) – 25.4%

It’s a step forward, though he also has seen his walk rate plummet (4.0%) and that’s highly concerning.  His average looks impressive, but the plate discipline skills and his lack of line drives (16.3%) indicate that there’s a regression coming.

Throw in an elevated fly ball (45.0%) and popup (30.6%) rates give even more cause for concern.  Considering his history, can we even buy into a 25.0% HR/FB?  There are far too many questions to get excited at this point.

Once a highly thought of prospect there is reason to pay attention, but right now the doubts far outweigh the reward.  Don’t get overly excited by a strong start.

Current Grade – C
Upside Grade – B

Sources –, Fangraphs

Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings:

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