The New York Yankees have had their share of outfield prospects fly under the radar the past few seasons. Ben Gamel is showing that he is, in fact, a quality big leaguer, and Dustin Fowler hopes to recover and start his career in The Show next season.
Could Jhalan Jackson be the next under-the-radar outfielder?
The Yankees selected Jackson in the seventh round of the 2015 MLB draft. He is a product of Division II baseball, parlaying a huge 2015 at Florida Southern into draft-worthy credentials. Jackson hit .417 with 20 home runs for the Moccasins, leading the team in nearly every offensive category.
He is a huge specimen — 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds. It’s surprising that he plays a solid right field with all that bulk, but he has a good feel for the ball and a strong arm. Jackson has just three errors this season, while rifling down five assists. The number is down from his career-high 11 assists in Charleston, but that also could be a result of some better baserunning.
Jackson has a wide and slightly open stance in the older looks, something he may have adjusted in Trenton. There isn’t much pre-pitch fuss, which seems to be different than during his early years. He keeps his hands head-high through his at-bats. His swing can get a bit long, and he struggles chasing pitches, but has enough muscle and bat speed to make it work.
Pay attention to the difference between the Staten Island video from Minor League Baseball and the Tampa video from Art Loose. There is a lot less bounce in his stance these days, which perhaps is helping better his strike zone discipline.
Jackson is a pull hitter and there is no two ways around it. One of his 10 home runs has gone opposite field while just two of his career-best doubles have gone to right field.
He got off to a slow start in Tampa this season, but it is also a very pitcher-friendly league. While his numbers in Tampa don’t jump off the page, what’s most impressive was his short stint in Trenton.
Facing the most advanced pitching of his young professional career, Jackson was a beast for a three-week run in Trenton. Though it’s a small sample size, Jackson had a 29-game run that woke up anyone not paying attention to him. He capped it off with a two-home run inning on Aug. 26 in Trenton’s division-clinching win.
Jackson slashed .302/.417/.488 over that run, showing much better plate discipline than he has in the past. Career bests in a 26.2 strikeout rate and 13.6 walk rate are evidence on the stat sheet. But it is also visible in his at bats. He seems to work counts better than in the past. When he makes an out, he makes the pitcher work. Jackson will seemingly always carry swing-and-miss issues, but he can make those strikeouts productive. In Saturday’s first two at-bats, Jackson fouled off a few pitches in an 0-2 count before putting up an eight-pitch second at-bat.
The late August shuffle is underway. A day after his big game, Jackson was sent back to Tampa to make room for Mark Payton. Many believe it’s temporary until the September call-ups are made, and Jackson will quickly find his way back to Trenton. He was simply too hot not to make it back.
The Yankees are very deep in the outfield, giving prospects like Jackson time to right the wrongs. There is a lot of upside in Jackson’s game, especially with his untapped power, but he is still a few years away. The Yankees have some decisions this offseason with the 40-man roster. It could open the door for a prospect like Jackson to see a fast train to Triple-A in 2018.
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