Rotoprofessor’s Prospect Watch – Austin Jackson

Nov 9, 2008

Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

The Yankees are a team whose prospects always seem to find the spotlight, justified or not.  Maybe it’s the big New York market over-hyping the hopeful stars.  Maybe some of the players just aren’t that good.  Yes, some of them live up to the hype, like Joba Chamberlain.  The thing is, for every Chamberlain I can name you a Brien Taylor, who was an absolute bust.  I’m sure you can say that for every franchise, but it just seems to be more magnified in New York.

That leaves us to wonder what the situation is for the newest Yankees “top prospect” Austin Jackson.  Is he all hype or is there actually some substance behind it?

Prior to 2008 Baseball America had him pegged as the #2 prospect in the Yankees system, behind only Chamberlain.  They listed him as the Best Athlete as well as the Best Defensive Outfielder in the organization, certainly something that is going to open up eyes considering the Yankees needs.  With guys like Bobby Abreu and Johnny Damon trying to cover the ground, the need for a top-notch defensive outfielder is certainly there.

The Yankees rarely bring a prospect up because of his glove, however.  Does Jackson have the bat to justify the hype?  At 21-years old he spent the entire season at Double A, hitting .285 with just 9 HR in 520 AB.  Well, he must have had a lot of speed then, right?  Of course not, as he stole just 19 bases and scored 75 runs.

His plate discipline must also be brought into question, having struck out 113 times while walking just 56.  That certainly is not the type of ratio we want to see from a player who appears to be able to provide little power at this point in his career.  We can talk about his potential to grow and that the power will eventually be there, but we need to see it to believe it, having spent 3+ seasons in the minor leagues.

I can’t say that it is a surprise that the power hasn’t come around yet, but you would like to see at least some growth.  His career high was in 2007, when he hit 13 HR across two levels of Single A.  It is just hard for me to see him taking that huge leap in 2009.

He was drafted in the eighth round of the 2005 draft, #259 overall straight out of high school.  At the time, said he had “athletic ability in CF like Tori Hunter”, very high praise.  The problem is, the Yankees proved this season that if you can’t hit, it doesn’t matter.

The tried Melky Cabrera out in CF at the start of 2008 and stayed with him for some time, but when he hit .249 with just 8 HR and 9 SB on the season, he was replaced.  Is he the best defensive outfielder?  Obviously not, but it is still pretty clear that you need to hit in order to not only win the job in 2009, but to keep it for the entire season.

Maybe Jackson is going to turn into a big time player down the road, anything is possible.  That’s why owners in long-term keeper leagues would be smart to have him stashed away, just in case.  His athletic ability is unquestioned, but that does not necessarily mean that it will translate onto the field.

I simply don’t believe that 2009 is going to be that year.  He still has too far to grow with the bat before he is going to make an impact at the major league level.  Hopefully he makes strides early on, leading to some playing time in the second half.  Chances are, however, he won’t make any type of impact until 2010 at the earliest.

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