Over the weekend, we learned that the Chicago Cubs have two of the top 10 first base prospects in baseball (according to MLB.com), Anthony Rizzo at the top and Dan Vogelbach at the bottom. That came a week after Javier Baez was listed as one of the top 10 shortstop prospects in baseball … and a few days before Brett Jackson made the top 10 outfield prospect list.
The just-announced outfield list has Jackson behind only Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Bubba Starling, and Wil Meyers in all of baseball. And, given that outfielders come in triplicate, Jackson’s achievement is all the more impressive.
On Jackson, considered by most to be the Cubs’ top prospect heading into the 2012 season, MLB.com says:
It’s hard to imagine a 20-20 player being undervalued, but because none of Jackson’s individual tools grade out as plus, he might fit that bill. Jackson hit better after he was promoted to Triple-A in 2011 – always a good sign. His strikeout rate concerns some, but he also draws walks and his power-speed combination should play just fine at the highest level. Jackson can play all three outfield spots, something that should allow him to reach Chicago at some point in 2012.
Jackson, 23, will start the year at AAA Iowa with an eye toward coming up to Chicago perhaps in the second half of 2012 when an outfield spot magically comes open.
In the interim, the Cubs will undoubtedly be looking at Jackson’s K rate. Strikeouts are not, in and of themselves, a certain mark of doom for a prospect – in fact, in Jackson’s case, they indicate a relatively disciplined approach at the plate that yields a lot of pitches and a lot of walks. But it tends to be the case that minor leaguers who strike out as often as Jackson does – 320 times in 1341 plate appearances, or 23.9% of the time (and increasing as he moves up the ladder) – have trouble adjusting in the bigs.
Still, Jackson’s combination of speed, athleticism, discipline, power and defense make him a good bet to have a long Major League career. And that’s the cat’s pajamas.