Jackson Was An Easy Choice

As many as eight different Chicago Cubs scouts saw Brett Jackson in some capacity dating back to his sophomore season with the University of California. Chicago selected the 20-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder with their first-round pick (31st overall) in Monday's amateur draft, and it was not a difficult decision, they said.

Jackson (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) batted .321 with 17 doubles, eight home runs and 41 RBI in 53 games for the Golden Bears his junior season. He had 11 stolen bases in 16 attempts and an on-base percentage of .407. He was ranked the second best overall athlete among all draft-eligible college players by Baseball America.

Cubs Director of Professional and Amateur Scouting Tim Wilken said Monday that selecting Jackson with the club's first-round pick was a relatively easy decision considering where they were in the draft order.

"Pretty much so," Wilken said. "There may have been some guys better on the board as far as ranking goes and you're thinking maybe they get to you. But we put a fair amount of time into this guy."

Wilken said the Cubs had several scouts looking at Jackson dating back to his sophomore season through the Cape Cod League last summer and most recently this past season in the Pac 10.

"We had seven, eight, nine guys get to see him, whether it was on tape or on film," he said. "So we've had this guy targeted for a while. We're very glad that he got to us. We think with his baseball ability and his physical ability combined, if he makes some subtle changes, we've got a good player."

Wilken outlined some of the things that impressed him the most about Jackson's play, both offensively and defensively.

"I've seen him handle velocity pretty good," he said. "I've seen him handle the low ball pretty good. I've seen him doing it with the wood bat and I like his swing plane.

"(Defensively) I would say he's got a chance to have at least plus if not better range," Wilken added. "He's going to see balls hit like he's never seen before, so sometimes it takes awhile to figure that out. But his arm is average to a little better than average, and he's got plus accuracy to go with it. With that combination … it does make him a little bit of a weapon in the outfield defensively."

It might be somewhat tempting to draw comparisons between Jackson and Tyler Colvin. Both were first-round talents coming out of college and are athletic, left-handed hitting outfielders.

Wilken said that's as far as the comparisons go.

"They're two different types of frames and I think we were kind of hoping at the time that Tyler could play center. We know that (Jackson) can play center," Wilken said. "We like the bat potential off of both and at this time I think they both have decent power potential."

As for major league comparisons, Wilken said he'll let Jackson be his own player.

"But he's a little more physical than Mark Kotsay but kind of has a little Jim Edmonds in him," Wilken added. "I think Jackson ran better than Edmonds, but I thought Edmonds was a good outfielder for a long time. Hopefully Jackson can be closer to that or as good.

"This guy is a hard-nosed gamer," Wilken said of Jackson. "He's got real good intensity and comes to the park with the same energy everyday. Edmonds might have been one of the best defensive players in center field the last 20 years, so I'm not going to put that on Jackson, but I think he can be a pretty good defensive center fielder. I have no doubts whatsoever."

CUBS ADD COLLEGE INFIELDER, HIGH SCHOOL SOUTHPAW IN DRAFT

The Cubs added more depth to their current influx of middle infielders in the system with the selection of shortstop/second baseman D.J. LeMahieu from LSU in the second round of the draft Tuesday. LeMahieu (6-foot-4, 193 pounds), who bats and throws right-handed, is batting a team-high .340 with four home runs, 12 doubles and had a .408 on-base percentage through 66 games for the College World Series-bound Tigers.

"He hits the ball well to the other side of the field and when you know you've got a guy that can hit the ball the other way that well … the hitting instructors will tell you that nine times out of 10, this guy will have a chance to pull the ball as he gets older and stronger with authority," Wilken said of LeMahieu.

"We're going to let him do both [second and shortstop]," added Wilken.

In the third round, Chicago tabbed 19-year-old LHP Austin Kirk from Owasso (Okla.) High School. Kirk (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) was 9-1 with a 0.45 ERA to help lead the Rams to their 11th state championship in the past 13 years. He struck out 111 batters in 61 2/3 innings and also doubled as an outfielder.

"Kirk is a bulldog," Wilken said. "He's got a strong body. This guy is a good athlete. He's anywhere from 89 to 94 (mph) on the gun with an average breaking ball and a good changeup. He's got a good feel for pitching and is very tenacious on the mound and presents himself well. We really like his makeup and think he's got a chance to hit the ground running more than a fair amount of high school kids do."

Day 2 of the draft begins Thursday at 11 a.m. (CT) with rounds four through 30.

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