Prospect Profile: Can Alex Jackson Emerge As Atlanta’s Starting Catcher?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

After spending time converting to the outfield as a member of the Seattle Mariners, upon being acquired by the Braves Alex Jackson returned to catching. The positional change appeared to spark his bat, as the now 22-year old posted solid numbers while splitting time between High-A and Double-A last season:

.267 (98-367), 19 HR, 65 RBI, 56 R, 0 SB

While you could argue that Tyler Flowers has the potential to run with the starting job, there appears to be an opportunity for Jackson to rise into the role (and maybe as soon as 2018).  Can he do it, though?

 

Home Runs
Obviously power is his calling card, and he added 21 doubles to help back up last season’s success.  He has always been viewed as having plus raw power, so seeing him tap into it is definitely a positive and he will now get to call a favorable ballpark home.

He may not get enough AB to hit 30+ HR, though he has the potential to do it in any given season.  Think of him as having 24-27 annual home run potential, and that’s obviously enough.

 

Average
This is the question, as he’s continued to strikeout at far too high of a rate:

  • High-A – 26.2%
  • Double-A – 26.7%

He spent more time at High-A (282 PA) and his 19.8% SwStr% is highly concerning.  Maybe part of it was spending significant time working on his return to catching, but that’s a hard sell considering his 15.9% mark at Single-A in 2016.  With more advanced pitching likely to take more advantage, the strikeout number could get astronomical quickly.  Seeing a strikeout rate north of 30% is highly realistic, and that could be a crippling mark.

Now couple that with more of a fly ball approach:

  • High-A – 41.3%
  • Double-A – 43.6%

Along with a relative lack of speed, carrying a strong BABIP will be nearly impossible.  That profile, along with a significant strikeout rate, could easily mean a .225 type batting average.

 

Conclusion
We do have to give Jackson time to adjust, considering his transition back behind the plate, and it’s clear that he has ample power to make an impact.  The problem is that he simply may not have the ability to hit enough, depending on how his defense develops.  This is going to be a make or break season for him, especially as he sees time at Double and Triple-A, and we will watch closely to see if he can make the necessary adjustments.  At this point we aren’t buying, however.

Current Grade – C

Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com

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