Brett Jackson is the Chicago Cubs’ top prospect for a reason. He’s a fast, disciplined, powerful, athletic center fielder who’s had success at every level of the minor leagues, and is just 23.
Jason McLeod is the Chicago Cubs’ Scouting and Player Development Chief for a reason. When Tom Ricketts finagled Theo Epstein as the team’s baseball president, Epstein immediately wanted, together with Jed Hoyer, one man to join him in Chicago: Jason McLeod. The two worked together in Boston where McLeod engineered some of the best drafts in baseball.
So, when you combine Jackson and McLeod, you get one big ball of happy for Cubs fans.
And McLeod is a big fan of Jackson’s. From Dave van Dyke:
So what should Cubs fans expect when they finally get to see Jackson, who mostly has served as left-handed leadoff hitter in the minors but also has raw power?
“An exciting player,” [Jackson] replied without hesitation. “I value myself as a team player and someone who can really ignite an offense at the head of the lineup or in the middle. I’m capable of hitting for power and driving runners in, plus there’s nothing like getting on base and being driven in by somebody too.”
In other words, he believes he can do it all. And maybe he can.
McLeod, the man who bypassed him in the draft for the Red Sox, says the question on Jackson at Cal-Berkeley was “his overall hitting ability … but I loved his athleticism. He just looked the part (of being great). There weren’t too many guys walking around who had that physical package.”
The package now has matured to 6 feet 2 and 210 pounds. In his full two minor-league seasons, Jackson has shown the expected speed (51 steals) and power (32 homers, 55 doubles, 144 RBIs), but he also has struck out a lot (264 against 146 walks).
“The thing with Brett is his upside is so big because he has the strength and speed and can play defense and really throw,” said McLeod, who hasn’t seen Jackson play in person since college. “Ultimately, his bat is going to tell who he is, whether he’s going to be a superstar or complementary player.”
Once again, I love how this front office is, at once, optimistic and candid. Jackson’s ceiling is enormous, but, if he doesn’t cut down on the strikeouts, he might be no more than a “complementary player,” as McLeod rightly points out.
Even with a dynamite Spring, Jackson will not break camp with the Cubs short of a couple injuries. He could use some more time at AAA, and the Cubs could use a couple months to delay his service clock and assure another year of team control down the road (not to mention hopefully avoiding Super Two status, which will save them millions in the future). But that’s no reason not to be excited about Jackson’s future.
And, then, let your mind dream about a future outfield featuring Jackson, Yoenis Cespedes, and Matt Szczur, which would be, if nothing else, the best defensive outfield in baseball…