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brett jacksonIt’s no secret that Brett Jackson’s prospect stock has taken a considerable hit. Once roundly considered the top prospect in the Cubs’ system, Jackson reminded all of us that, no matter how strong your other tools – and, seriously, he does everything else so well – if you can’t make consistent contact, you’re going to have problems when you reach the upper minors and majors.

After an ugly 2012, including an unsuccessful stint in the big leagues, and a disastrous 2013, Jackson is back at AAA Iowa this year, trying to hold onto his 40-man roster spot, and prove that he’s got a big league future, at least as a complementary piece.

Jackson, who turns 26 next month, certainly did something good last night, when he launched a bomb to give the Iowa Cubs a walk-off win:

It’s good to see Jackson have some success after what he’s dealt with. On the day, which featured a doubleheader, Jackson was 4-6 with that homer, a double, a triple, and a walk. Hell of a good day.

Will it be enough to get him to the big club?

Well, despite an outfield full of holes, Jackson hasn’t been able to crack it this year. He’s hitting .215/.299/.383 with a nice walk rate, approaching 9%, but an unsustainable strikeout rate, over 35%. Jackson has shown signs of life lately, hitting .250/.379/.500 over his last 10 games, but even that has come with 12 strikeouts in 28 plate appearances. Against righties this year, Jackson has hit .244/.343/.445, so at least there’s that.

So, what happens next for Jackson? Barring a fundamental change in the last two months of the minor league season, or some kind of surprise with the big league club in September, I doubt he survives the Winter on the Cubs’ 40-man roster. The organization will need the space, and they might feel like they’ve gone as far as they can with Jackson. If they don’t want to release Jackson, the Cubs could simply outright Jackson off the 40-man roster, if he clears waivers, and keep him in the minor league system for another year. That could actually happen at any time, and needn’t necessarily come after the season.

Given his obvious physical talent, and combination of speed, power, and outfield defense, you wonder if another organization would try to grab – and then outright – Jackson if he were made available. They might take him into their system, dreaming on the talent, and try to continue working on his swing. The Cubs didn’t have success doing it, but maybe another organization can.

Or maybe, even if he’s taken off the 40-man roster, the Cubs can continue to work with him and something clicks. Jackson’s upside is no longer the above-average regular we hoped it would be, but a guy who can play quality defense at all three outfield spots, can run the bases well, and can hit with pop? It’d be nice to get that guy on the bench as a 4th/5th outfielder.

It won’t be any time soon, however, and it will require fundamental improvement in Jackson’s strikeout rate, which currently erodes the value he’d otherwise offer.

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