TCN 2012 Cards Prospect #13: Ryan Jackson

Does the shortstop have two years to prove if he can take over for Rafael Furcal in St. Louis? Today's report is FREE!

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile
(including links to full 2011 and career stats)

2011 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
34 SS 5/1/1988 6-3 180 R R 2009 5th

School: University of Miami, Florida

Selected 2011 stats

SPR 0.278 533 65 148 34 3 11 73 44 91 2 0.334 0.415 0.749
AFL 0.342 76 13 26 7 1 1 11 13 17 0 0.438 0.500 0.938

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

CariocaCardinal (17): Many have doubted Ryan Jackson's offensive potential since he was drafted in the fifth round by the Cardinals in 2009 and I have been one of them. But I am a doubter no more. I don't necessarily think he will have a near .750 OPS every year (like this year), but he might do it occasionally and should be able to be over .700 consistently.

While I would like to Jackson raise his 7.3% walk rate, his overall K:BB ratio of less than 2:1 for his career is totally acceptable. Some people think that Jackson's power surge in 2011 was a function of playing in Springfield (where many players show increased power), but I think that is unclear. This may be the function of ever increasing power as he has actually increased his power at each of his four minor league stops. Jackson's peripheral stat that stands out most to me is his line drive rate of over 20% each of the last two years.

Jackson had 600 plate appearances at Double-A in 2011 so it seems unlikely he would return there. He most likely will be in Memphis for all of 2012. And even though I expect Jackson to get a spring training invite this year, it would not seem probable that he would get a major league call up short of several injuries to middle infielders in the organization, since he is not on the 40 man roster.

Message board community (13): Jackson was 13th with the community and the combined ranking, too. In the community voting, he received his first support at the 13th spot, which I take to be a testament for the top 12 prospects in the system. This represents a steep rise from 38th last year.

The downsides are that Jackson had a high strikeout rate (15.2%), low walk rate (7.3%), and high BABIP (.313) last year. But the upsides… Jackson has long been known as a good defensive shortstop. The question was whether he could hit.

At Springfield, he managed a solid (for a shortstop) .334 OBP/.415 SLG line. His power was likely inflated by the friendly confines at Springfield (.457 home versus .376 road SLG), but he still managed a .722 OPS away from home. Jackson's OPS in June (.861) and July (.870) were particularly good. Was the .623 the rest of the way due to his wearing out or Double-A pitchers figuring him out? He hit lefties (OPS of .879) much better than righties (.695) last year.

Jackson's Arizona Fall League performance came too late to help him in the voting. There, he managed a .438 OBP and .500 SLG in 76 at-bats. And he managed 13 walks (to 17 K's) in his time out West.

If he can be a plus defensive shortstop who can get on base, we just might have our shortstop of the future getting his first taste of St. Louis this coming year. - Gagliano

Brian Walton (11): I view Jackson as being locked in a race with Matt Adams to be the next minor leaguer to potentially crack the Cardinals starting infield. The two-year deal signed by veteran Rafael Furcal will give Jackson enough time to prove his worthiness. With Jackson possibly still a year away, the number one thing I will be looking for in 2012 is greater consistency in all aspects of his play.

Jackson had a wild ride in 2011. He began on fire, being named the organization's Player of the Month in April, batting .337, before totally falling apart in May, when he hit just .170. Hardly the first or last superstitious player, the 23-year-old ritualistically burned his batting gloves in frustration.

It must have worked as Jackson rebounded to .323 in June, then logged a 17-game hitting streak in July. He fell to .246 over his final 31 games before batting .342 against solid competition in the Arizona Fall League.

The right-handed hitter needs to improve against right-handed pitching. His Texas League OPS against RHPs was almost 200 points lower (.695 vs. .879) than against lefties. Albeit in fewer AFL at-bats, his splits were even more pronounced this fall (1.226 OPS vs. LHP and .804 vs. RHP).

Ron "Pop" Warner, Jackson's manager with Springfield in 2011 and likely his skipper in 2012 with Memphis as well, values Jackson's consistency – in the field – while acknowledging the shortstop getting down on his hitting can impact his overall game.

"He makes the routine play and that is all you ask as a manager," Warner told me this summer. "He had a little funk offensively, dropped his head a little bit, was giving some at bats away, but he came out of it.

"He will be the first to tell you that it was affecting his defense," continued Warner. "It was affecting his offense. You could tell his demeanor was bad. I told him, ‘No one is going to feel sorry for you so there is no reason feeling sorry for yourself, either.' He snapped out of it - finally - and hopefully it was a just learning thing for him."

Jackson was named both a mid-season and a more exclusive post-season All-Star in the Texas League and appears to have an open road ahead. At best, if he continues to improve, he takes over for Furcal. At worst, he could become another Tyler Greene or Daniel Descalso rather than a sure big league starter.

"He is a very solid player," Warner concluded. "He is everything you want and gives you everything he's got." Next test: The Pacific Coast League.

Our 2012 top 40 countdown continues: To see the list of top Cardinals prospects announced to date and remaining article schedule, click here. You can also read each of the voters' philosophies in making their selections.

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