Cubs Prospect Interview: Brett Jackson

Brett Jackson has been on a torrid streak at Class High-A Daytona recently. The Cubs' top outfield prospect and 2009 first-round draft pick has 10 multi-hit showings in his last 13 games and is batting .298 with four home runs and 33 RBI through 61 contests. A week ago, he hit for the cycle, coming full-circle when he launched a walk-off home run in the 11th inning.

Q: Which is the hardest part of the cycle? People always say the triple, but I've always thought it was the home run.

A: I don't know. I came out and got the triple in my first at-bat. I went down the first-base line. It wasn't like I was trying to hit for the cycle; it's just one of those things that happened. I got the opportunity to come up in the late innings and did a good job of getting my pitch, getting on base and leading off the inning. I went up to the plate with a solid approach, got the pitch I wanted, and hit it enough to get it out.

Q: What pitch did you get in the 11th?

A: It was a fastball middle-in. I was facing a lefty and I'd faced him a couple of innings before. He was leaving some of his fastballs in and I thought I was going to get a chance to get one middle-in. I got the pitch I was looking for and executed the swing I wanted to execute. I guess the rest is history.

Q: How much does that say about your knowledge at the plate and your ability to pick up on pitchers' tendencies throughout the game?

A: I think I've learned a lot in my short-lived professional career. It's something you have to learn if you're going to be a decent hitter in professional baseball. You look for certain pitches during certain counts and spot certain tendencies in certain pitchers. I went through a little dry spell a couple of weeks ago and put a lot of work in on my swing in the cages and with my hitting coach, Richie Zisk.

I've hit the ball well the past week or so and I look back at the slump I had, and really I've been fortunate to have just one slump in my career. I look back at it as a learning experience. At the time, obviously no one ever attributes anything positive to a slump, but it was an experience for me to learn how to come out of it strong, and I'm appreciative of that happening in Florida. With that said, I'm just trying to put everything together while I can, and really polish my game to try and make it to the next level.

I was fortunate to start off the season hot and I came out of a slump and still am hitting pretty well. But it was a tough stand, and I did some soul-searching and put some hard work in on the physical side as well. I made some gains coming out of adversity. Adversity makes the man, my father always says. Hopefully I can take that experience and keep learning to achieve the ultimate goal.

Q: The team has been playing much better over the last month or so. At one point this season, they were 10 games below .500 and now they're right at sea level. What do you attribute to the overall improvement of the club?

A: I think it's an overall attitude. We're a tight-knit group and we didn't like the way things were going. We made a collaborative effort to start hitting the ball better and throwing the ball better. It's exciting to approach the .500 mark and we're looking to win ball games right now. We know we're capable of having a much better record than we do. We're slowly but surely gaining ground and hopefully making some moves on some teams ahead of us.

Q: You've said before that you're an aggressive hitter, but you are second in the Florida State League in walks. Is it possible to be both patient and aggressive?

A: I think it's every hitter's goal to find the middle ground between patience and aggressiveness. Every situation dictates certain attitudes at the plate. Every time I go to the plate, it's a new at-bat. I'm not trying to add numbers to certain categories in my statistics. I try having an approach every time I step up to the plate. Whether that means being aggressive early in the count or seeing pitches, a lot goes into that process: who's pitching, what are the pitchers' tendencies, who's on base and who's hitting behind me. You can go down the line, but (to answer the question) I don't know. Fortunately I'm seeing the ball well this year. One of my better skills is my eye at the plate and when I see pitches early in the count that I want to hit, I hit them. When I don't see them, I don't.

Q: When you go through a slump like the one you spoke of earlier, how do you break out of it? Was it a matter of retooling your swing or changing your approach?

A: I think it's a combination. At times, when you stop hitting the ball well, you lose confidence in your swing and start chasing balls out of the pitcher's hand rather than expecting the ball in a certain zone. There's certainly a mental aspect to coming out of a slump, but also I think it's finding the confidence in the swing, and finding the swings that are necessary. I've put a lot of work in the cage on finding more confidence in the swing so that I can rethink my approach at the plate a little bit. I made those necessary adjustments.

Baseball is a game where you have to make adjustments day in and day out. You're not going to fix your swing and fix your approach and expect it to remain that way the rest of your career. When you start getting comfortable swinging the bat, you can lose it the next day. I just continue to work day in and day out to keep consistency. When you have those rough patches, they're not very fun.

Q: I know you're always working on every part of your game, but if you could name one area where you've really improved, what would it be?

A: I came out with a plan of hitting the ball hard in a league where you can't afford to hit the ball in the air too much. It's certainly a pitcher's league and I like the way I've approached every at-bat. I like the focus I've had on a consistent basis, every at-bat. Obviously I've gone through my struggles, but for the most part, I'm proud of the way that I've held my focus and have been able to make it a day to day, at-bat to at-bat approach and slow down the game, and approach the day with the effort of winning and scoring runs for the team.

When it comes to hitting, obviously everyone wants to be the home run and big power guy. That's baseball. But accepting the fact that I'm the player I am, whether that's an on-base guy or a home run hitter, I think I have the ability to do both. I think in a perfect world, I want to do both. Every day, I try to make strides to improve my game, to improve my goal of getting to Tennessee, and my goal of getting to the big leagues.

Q: On that front, is getting promoted to Double-A something you're really thinking about?

A: Obviously I'd like to be there as soon as I can. I think I'm ready, but as far as that goes, I'm trying not to make that my first priority. I'm trying to take everything day to day because it's really something that's out of my control. The only thing I have in my control is the way I play, but I'm trying to make a statement with my bat and the way I play. Everyone wants to move up and there's no denying that. But the focus has to be on the effort on the field; not on when the farm director is going to move you up.

Q: I know defense is defense, and sometimes people get tired of talking about defense, but what has the outfield work for you been like this year?

A: Every day, I try to work on both parts of my game: my offense and my defense. In batting practice, I work on my groundballs and fly balls, just like every other outfielder. I'd like to think that I work harder than the average outfielder. I take pride in my defense and certainly think I can get better. I think there are still advances to be made on my defense and hopefully that's something that continues to come with experience. What can I say about defense? Fly balls are fly balls. I think the basic thing to work on is going back on balls and putting your head down, but all in all I think defense is a reflection of athleticism. Hopefully I can put athleticism and hard work together.

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