April 9, 2010

Player Snapshot: Austin Jackson

I haven't posted much recently because, well, I don't really like to start anointing guys as the next coming of Pujols after a single series. If the Phillies got to play the Nationals everyday Ryan Howard would probably end the season with his current .400 average and probably break the home run record by a good 20 dingers. Nevertheless, we all know that 3 games do not make a season, so we should temper our puppy love for the early fantasy studs. But, as I say that I don't like to make judgments after a fast start, I'm here to talk about a guy I do like after his first 3 games, Austin Jackson.

While his numbers, outside of his average, do not really jump out at you (2/.333/2/0/0) I am very intrigued by the fact that his 5 hits are composed of a single, 3 doubles and a triple. His impressive slugging percentage, .667, has come in a ballpark that is only rivaled by Petco Park and Progressive Field in terms of its lack of home runs. Not only has he been hindered by the park he visited, but he had to face the ace that is Zack Greinke, as well as bat in front of Johnny Damon, who is on a very cold streak. Each of these conditions has held Jackson's production down a bit, and he is still excelling for a rookie.

What I like most about the young Tigers CF are the non-statistical characteristics. For instance, in order for Detroit to trade away a proven star like Curtis Granderson, they had to have been expecting a healthy amount of talent in return. While Max Scherzer is a quality prospect, Jackson was the star of the deal, and since their scouts probably know more about prospecting than me I will take their word that he is worth Grandy. Despite the fact that Damon has been so cold in these first few games, he still gets to hit in front of run producers like Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen, meaning that as long as he continues to get on there is a very good chance of him scoring.

Now back to his stats, and since he hasn't played in majors I'll focus on his minor league numbers as indicators of what he can do. Jackson's homer totals might not break into double digits this year, or anytime soon for that matter, but he can be a major producer in runs, as stated above, and stolen bases, as witnessed at the AAA level. Last year he swiped 24 bags, a pretty impressive number and he is still only 23, so he has fresh legs. He's also one of the only people in the Detroit who has a healthy amount of speed, so if Leyland decides to be a bit daring and run, look for him to turn to Jackson to get the steal.

I really like what I've seen so far this year out of Jackson, and his pedigree says that he should be able to keep up a pretty healthy pace throughout the season. But before you go dropping Carlos Quentin for AJax, make sure that you temper your expectations a little and wait a bit. If you are in the market for a guy who can hit .290, steal 25 bases and score 90 runs, I think Jackson could really be your guy.