Scouting Yankees Prospect #2: Austin Jackson

Jackson's game is becoming polished

The Yankees drafted Austin Jackson in the 8th-round of the 2005 MLB Draft out of Ryan High School in Texas. A star basketball player who opted to sign with the Yankees in lieu of playing point guard for Georgia Tech, he has developed from a raw athlete to a more polished baseball player and now he's inching his way closer to Yankee Stadium.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Austin Jackson
Position: Outfielder
DOB: February 1, 1987
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 195
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

He leaped on to the national prospect scene with a breakout performance in the Florida State League in 2007, hitting .345 with ten home runs in just 67 games for the Tampa Yankees, and then followed it up with a solid first year in Double-A last season.

"I was very satisfied with my game play this year," Jackson said. "I think I could have did a couple things better. At the plate I think I could have been more patient and when I started struggling, I just started trying to do too much instead of just trying to get a base hit.

"When you're struggli ng you just need to go up there and do the things you've been doing your whole career and just relax, and get a pitch to hit."

Once prone to prolonged slumps earlier in his career, he has slowly started discovering how to become a more consistent player and avoid the offensive slides that would plague him.

So while his overall numbers might not jump off of the page for a top prospect, the fact that he never hit below .268 [which is eight points higher than his combined average in 870 low-A at-bats earlier in his career] in any one month in 2008 is a testament to his improved consistency.

"By slowing the game down you can see the ball longer and you can pick up pitches, and you can follow pitches a lot better," he said of his new approach. "So definitely slowing the game down is something that I continue to try to do to become a better ball player."

A pronounced pull-hitter in his younger days, one who would consistently jump out in front of pitches, he has learned to stay back longer and more balanced in his swing, and that has allowed him to use the whole field more.

"I wouldn't say that I'm an opposite field hitter," he admitted. "It's just me trying to stay inside the ball and you can get a better chance of getting a base hit if you stay inside the ball.

"As a result of that, a lot of balls that I hit this year were going to right field and there's a lot of base hits in right field".

He hit a solid .285 with 33 doubles and nine home runs for the Trenton Thunder this past season, and he had nearly twice as many hits to the opposite field as he did to left field.

"I think he's making a lot of progress in a short amount of time," Trenton hitting coach Tom Wilson said. "You have to look at, he's 21 years old and I think that he's probably going to play in Triple-A for some time.

"Can he go to the big leagues next year? Yeah, he can probably go to the big leagues next year. It's going to be a learning curve and each level's a jump. He's a really gifted kid all-around as far as being an athlete and he's a good kid too."

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2008 Trenton .285 520 33 9 69 75 19 56 113 .354 .419
2007 Scranton .333 3 1 0 0 2 1 2 2 .600 .667
2007 Tampa .345 258 15 10 34 53 13 22 48 .398 .566
2007 Charleston .260 235 16 3 25 33 19 24 59 .336 .374
2006 Charleston .260 535 24 4 47 90 37 61 151 .340 .346
2005 Gulf Coast .304 148 11 0 14 32 11 18 26 .374 .405


Batting and Power. Jackson has reinvented himself as a hitter over the past two seasons. Once prone to drifting forward in his stance to cheat on the outside pitches to pull the ball, he has learned to stay back longer and use his exceptional bat speed and improved pitch recognition to hit the ball where it's pitched. As a result he's gone from primarily a pull-hitter with big holes in his swing to a hitter who uses the entire field more and makes more consistent contact. He has successfully cut down on his strikeouts over the y ears and he has learned to make quicker adjustments. He has good gap power now and he has become a line-drive hitter. And while he lacks the natural loft in his right now to be a plus home run hitter, scouts believe his doubles will start turning into more home runs as he continues to mature both physically and as a hitter.

Base Running and Speed. Jackson is a gifted athlete with great agility. He doesn't have the plus speed some others may possess, however, but he is more than capable of stealing 20+ bases in a given season. He has gotten better learning pitchers' moves and when to run, but he could stand to improve a bit more.

Defense. Jackson got unfairly criticized by some for his defensive prowess in centerfield when in actuality he has always had the tools to be a solid centerfielder. He has learned how to read the ball coming off of the bat better and to take more precise routes. He also has a solid enough arm for centerfield. His ideal position is as a plus defensive left fielder, but he is also solid and now consistent enough to man centerfield on a daily capacity, one who could make Gold Glove caliber plays at times.

Projection. Jackson's combination of average to possibly above average power and speed, his ability to make the spectacular play in centerfield, and now his improved ability to be a consistent hitter has some scouts envi sioning his ceiling as a Torii Hunter type in his prime. Like Hunter, Jackson projects to hit somewhere around sixth or seventh in a big league lineup, but his ever-improving bat leads some to believe he could have Curtis Granderson-like production someday.

ETA. 2009. There's a slight chance Jackson could begin the 2009 season back in Double-A, but the smarter money says he'll open up in Triple-A and with being needed to be put on the 40-man roster in the winter, he'll most likely get his call-up to the big leagues by September.

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