Top 50 Prospect Profile: Conor Jackson

<p>The new year is here, and the <b>FutureBacks.com Top 50</b> is rolling&nbsp; The Top 50 features profiles, commentary, and analysis from the FutureBacks.com staff, Diamondbacks coaches and officials, as well as Scout.com experts.&nbsp; When discussions start about who will make the Diamondbacks coming out of Spring Training, <b>Conor Jackson</b> better be mentioned.


Vital Statistics:

Name Conor Jackson
Position Outfielder/1st Base
Age 22
Height 6'3"
Weight 205
Bats Right
Throws Right
'04 Club Hi-A Lancaster JetHawks ( California League)/Double-A El Paso Diablos (Texas League)

The Diamondbacks had two first round choices in the 2003 draft, and Conor Jackson was one of them.  Taken 19th overall out of the University of California/Berkley, Jackson has hit since people started keeping stats on him.  Along with Carlos Quentin and Jaime D'Antona, all 2003 picks, they were nicknamed the 'Three Amigos.'  Production, consistent, hard core production, has been the name of the game for Jackson.  He reported to the Short Season A Yakima bears, and just to make sure the D'Backs were happy with their decision he proceeded to become a Northwest League All Star, a Baseball America Northwest League All Star, the Northwest League MVP, and the Baseball America Northwest League MVP.  He's played in the Futures Game, and after a 2004 season that featured him first dominating the Hi-A California League with the Lancaster JetHawks, then proceeding to dominate the Texas League with the Double-A El Paso Diablos, for an encore he crushed the 2004 Arizona Fall League with the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Conor Jackson Avg HR RBI SLG % At bats K/BB
Hi-A Lancaster JetHawks (California League) .345 11 54 .562 258 36/45
Double-A El Paso Diablos (Texas League) .301 6 37 .456 226 36/24
Scottsdale Scorpions (Arizona Fall League) .324 8 26 .586 111 19/22

Batting and Power:  Where would you like to start?  In one and a half seasons in the minor leagues Jackson's slugging percentage is a healthy .520, and he's getting bigger.  He hit 11 home runs in 258 at bats in Lancaster in 2004, but just six in his 226 at bats in El Paso.  It's almost as if he heard someone say that he wasn't hitting for enough power, because when he went to the AFL he exploded with eight home runs in 111 at bats, tying for the league lead.  At FutureBacks we tried to start a pool on when Jackson might hit under .300 as a professional hitter, problem was we couldn't get anybody to bet the under.  Even his plate discipline is above average, he drew more walks this past season than strikeouts.  He's major league ready right now, and has a better than 50/50 shot to make the big league roster out of Spring Training.

Let's see if we can find a quote or two on Conor Jackson.

"This guy can hit like there's no tomorrow."  Brad Seymore, Lancaster JetHawks General Manager.

"He's right on the verge of making an impact and getting an opportunity to play in the major leagues.  Once he gets there, he'll be there for a long time, and I think he'll be an All-Star caliber player."  Scott Coolbaugh, Jackson's Manager at El Paso.

"Jackson reached base in all but six games he played for Lancaster, thanks to what was considered the Cal League's best strike-zone recognition. He has a quick bat, a willingness to use the entire field and developing power. He should hit for average and produce 20-30 homers annually."  Baseball America's Kevin Goldstein.

"When people ask if the Diamondbacks really have any stud prospects in their system, I point to Conor Jackson and Carlos Quentin and say two words; Big Time," FutureBacks.com's David Merchant.

There are more, many many more, but these will do for now.

Base running and Speed:  If there is a downside to Jackson's game, it's his wheels.  He's not swift, but has enough speed to play a corner outfield spot and not embarrass himself going first to third on a single down the right field line.  He'll never steal bases unless it's a hit and run where the catcher drops the ball, but he'll be hitting 3/4/5/6 in the lineup, and thus won't be expected to.

Defense:  This is an interesting topic.  Coming out of Cal-Berkley Jackson was an average third baseman who, upon being drafted, was immediately moved to left field because of footwork and an average arm.  In two seasons in left Jackson worked hard to take better routes and hit cut off men, with a lot of success.  So much so that the Diamondbacks have given Jackson a brand new glove as thanks...a first baseman's glove.  With Luis Gonzalez coming back in left and the signing of Shawn Green the corner outfield spots have been filled, presumably for some time, the Diamondbacks are looking for a way to get Jackson's bat in the major leagues.  So how is Conor Jackson's defense at first base?  He played some first at Cal Berkley, and early, very early, reports say that Jackson should be fine, his footwork needs work, but Jackson's a gym rat, and because his bat is already so solid, he'll have the time to dedicate, and more importantly the work ethic to dedicate to getting better.  

ETA:  If the defense is there, Jackson starts 2005 as the right handed backup, and possibly even platoon, at first base.  More likely he starts the season in left field, filling the spot until Gonzalez's arm is ready to go, then becomes the first option to fill in when Gonzalez or Green or Chad Tracy needs a day off.  The upcoming season is going to be Conor Jackson's coming out party.  Expect this kid to be cog in the Diamondbacks rebuilding process, and expect him to start competing for MVP as early as 2007.  To say this kid is, 'For Real' is the understatement to all understatements.


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