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August 6, 2012

The Call-Up

Brett Jackson

by Kevin Goldstein

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The situation: With Reed Johnson having been dealt to the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs torching their roster at the trade deadline for all the right reasons, the club sent down Tony Campana to make room for Brett Jackson as their everyday center fielder for the remainder of the season and maybe beyond.

Background: It was a surprise to see Jackson drop to 31st overall in the 2009 draft, and he has proceeded to put up impressive numbers at every level, earning the call with a career minor league batting line of .282/.379/.488 that included a 20-homer/20-steal season in 2011. He was hitting .256/.338/.479 at Iowa this year, with 15 home runs and 27 stolen bases in 106 games, though most of the focus has been on his alarming strikeout rate; he whiffed 158 times in just 407 at-bats.

What he can do: If Jackson can close some of the massive holes in his swing, he's a true five-tool player. He has above-average raw power and speed, and the ability to post a string of 20/20 seasons. That gives him excellent long-term potential. However, the "ifs" regarding his swing are gigantic ones. He has a good understanding of the strike zone and is not prone to chasing, but he's not a sound hitter. There isn't an obvious flaw in his swing, or a tendency to chase sliders or something like that, he's just not that good of a hitter. The hope is that he can display enough power, speed and defense to make up for a low batting average.

Immediate big league future: Jackson is expected to get full-time play in center field as the Cubs evaluate just how ready he is to assume a full-time role in 2013. He certainly has the ability to help immediately in terms of home runs and stolen bases, but it's hard to imagine any scenario in which he hits for average right away.

Long term: Jackson has star potential, but it doesn't come without risk. He's a better long-term play than immediate one, but his secondary skills will always make him enticing.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

16 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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NYYanks826

Sounds like if Brett Jackson hits his ceiling, we could have a player in the mold of Mike Cameron, no?

Aug 06, 2012 09:24 AM
rating: 1
 
Shankweather

Cameron was a great fielder though. He saved as many runs with his glove as he created with his bat. I don't think Jackson can do that. But I'm a Cubs fan, so I hope you're right.

Aug 06, 2012 10:11 AM
rating: 0
 
eighteen

No, if Brett Jackson hits his ceiling, he's Drew Stubbs with less power.

Aug 06, 2012 11:20 AM
rating: 2
 
perhaps

I don't know that he would have Stubbs' defense. I don't think he ever would, though I do think he'll be good in CF.

You never know, though, about the hit tool. He's young enough to make some adjustments if his problems are mechanical (though I don't know that they are). I suppose time will tell.

Aug 06, 2012 12:35 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

As a comparison, McCracken was supposed to virtually identical to McLouth except he was younger. Some people make adjustments, others don't.

Aug 06, 2012 13:03 PM
rating: 0
 
brucegilsen
(999)

Voros McCracken?

Aug 08, 2012 19:13 PM
rating: 0
 
kasgard

I was thinking of the Cameron comp also--minus the Cameron like glove.

Aug 06, 2012 12:26 PM
rating: 0
 
delatopia

I thought making a comp to a player of a different race was not allowed in the canon of amateur scouting analysis.

Aug 06, 2012 20:33 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I remember Jackson being thought of as a better version of Tyler Colvin FWIW.

What I don't understand is why the Cubs played all these coy games with promoting Rizzo when Jackson wasn't exactly tearing up AAA.

Aug 06, 2012 11:59 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

The move also puts LaHair on the bench, right?

Aug 06, 2012 13:02 PM
rating: 0
 
grandslam28

They didn't want to start Rizzo's service time or make home a super two.

Aug 06, 2012 13:54 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Oh I know that. My question is why start Brett Jackson's service time...

Aug 06, 2012 16:21 PM
rating: 0
 
BillFisher

Kevin, any explanation of his reverse platoon split? This year the left-handed hitting Jackson has a .940 OPS against southpaws, but only .764 against righties. The strikeout rate is similar. Is this just sample size? Something in his approach? As a Cub fan, might I hope that he figures out righties while maintaining the ability to pound lefties?

Aug 06, 2012 15:01 PM
rating: 0
 
BillFisher

Having struck out 8 times in his first 12 plate appearances, Jackson is being benched today against a left-handed pitcher. But is he actually a better hitter against left-handers?

Aug 08, 2012 15:26 PM
rating: 0
 
onegameref

I vote to bench Soriano since he refused to go to SF. Tell him he won't be playing anytime soon unless he opens his mind a little to destinations. LaHair, Jackson and DeJesus should run out there everyday.

Aug 06, 2012 21:40 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

While I agree in theory, in practice, Soriano won't get any trade value sitting on the bench, he's the only right handed power hitter the Cubs have at this point and he is having a decent season so far. So, I guess LaHair sits until Soriano's taken via waivers.

Aug 06, 2012 22:45 PM
rating: 0
 
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Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (08/03)
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Premium Article The Call-Up: Josh Vitt... (08/06)
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