Friday, December 29, 2006

Prospect Profile: Austin Jackson (#11)

Age: 19
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 180 lbs
Drafted: 8th Round in 2005 out of High School (800,000 $ bonus)
Position: Centerfield
Bats: Right

Tools: According to Travis at Pending Pinstripes, the Yankees started scouting Jackson when he was 12. They clearly had interest in his athletic talent, and it showed. Jackson is an excellent athlete, but that is only hlaf the story. His speed is 60 on a 20-80 scale, or about equal to a Bobby Abreu. He is still learning how to steal bases but has already shown 40-50 base ability. The speed translate well to centerfield, where is one among many excellent Yankee defenders. He has the arm of an average left fielder. Jackson has a Derek Jeter-like swing to right field, producing surprising gap power. Austin is extremely patient at the plate for a 19 year old, although he struck out a ton in 2006.

Performance: At first glance, Jackson did not follow up his strong performance in 2005 when sent to Charleston in 2006. He hit to a .260/.340/.346 line with 151 strikeouts, 61 walks, 37 Sbs and 12 CS. The strikeouts were not the result of a long or loopy swing but rather Jackson taking too many pitches for strike 3. That said, he came in to the season as a 19 year old pure-athlete. It is very rare that an athlete of his caliber does not swing at everything - so the pitch-taking is encouraging. He will learn as he ages to get ahead in the count and drive hitter's pitches. Jackson certainly looks to have 80-walk potential written on him. In addition, he showed excellent raw power in Charleston, hitting 33 extra base hits. With his inside-out swing he probably won't hit a lot of home runs, but he will get his share of doubles and triples (especially with his speed).

Outlook: Jackson is my pick for a breakout prospect in 2007. Except for the strikeouts, he has done everything right. If he could cut those strikeouts down considerably he looks to be a .290/.380/.450 player who can steal you 40-50 bases every year. He is still a long way off, but the Yankees may push him to Tampa next year. He will join teammates Battle, Corona, Vechionacci, and others there. He is at a stage where the average high school prospect would still be trying to figure out how to tie his shoes in professional ball, so it is easy to underrate his performance so far. He is ahead of where Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter, similar in terms of talent, were at this age.

Grades: Ceiling A-, Health B, Comparison: Kenny Lofton