New Cubs Prospect Sacrificing his Solid Bat

The Cubs made RHP Jay Jackson their ninth-round selection in the MLB Draft last week and signed him to a professional contract soon afterward. Jackson, who served as a pitcher, infielder and outfielder throughout his college career at Furman University, led the Paladins' staff this season with nine victories, 94 strikeouts and a 3.17 ERA.

Jackson, 20, also finished second on the club with a .336 batting average in 40 games this season. He slugged eight home runs and hit 10 doubles.

But the Cubs say they had a relatively easy decision to make with regards to where they saw Jackson fitting in their system despite his solid numbers with the bat.

"He dabbled and played [in the field] when he wasn't pitching and had pretty decent numbers doing that," Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken said of Jackson. "But he's an athletic pitcher as you can imagine. He's got some power to his slider, a solid or a little better than average fastball. We think he's got some pretty good arm strength and he had pretty good numbers for a guy doing both (pitching and hitting)."

For Jackson, who is used to helping his teams both in the batters box and on the pitchers mound, it will be somewhat difficult to sacrifice hitting, he said.

"Out of high school, I thought I was going to be a position player," recalls Jackson, who came to Furman from Christ Church Episcopal High School in 2005. "Pitching kind of fell into the role that was meant to be for me, especially after last summer."

Jackson is alluding to his strong performance in the 2007 Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League, where he finished 5-0 with a 1.96 ERA for the Delaware Cows. In 36-plus innings, he struck out 38 batters and held opponents to a .200 average.

"It helped me to get seen a little bit more," Jackson said. "It put my name out there and I had some other scouts besides the one in my area look at me."

Jackson detailed his repertoire, noting that he features a four- and two-seam fastball, a curveball, slider and changeup. He listed the slider as his main out-pitch.

His velocity is normally 88-92 mph, having topped out at 94 mph. Adding some muscle to his 6'1, 195-pound frame could allow Jackson to add more velocity.

"It is definitely about gaining muscle," he said. "I actually talked to (the Cubs') Strength and Conditioning coach and he's going to try to get me on an individualized program later on this year, hopefully toward the end of the season so I don't have to worry about it now. Right now, they just want to see how we all play our games and see why we're here before they start messing with (players) too much."

The Cubs are undecided about whether they see Jackson as a starter or reliever. Jackson prefers to start, he said, because "the routine is easier."

Wilken said: "We think that once he puts everything into pitching and with some better instruction, you've got your choice of either a starter or reliever."

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