Phillies Hope Jacobson Is Just A Slow Starter

Let's face it. If you're drafted in the third round of the draft, you have to have some measure of talent. There must be something that at least a couple of scouts see that gives them reason to suggest that you're worthy of a third round pick, right? For Russ Jacobson, it was a .380 college batting average and solid defensive skills that gave the Phillies reason to use their third round pick in the 1999 Draft to take Russ Jacobson.

The Phillies have had some pretty good luck taking guys from the University of Miami. Pat Burrell and Jason Michaels are alumni of the Hurricanes, as is Russ Jacobson. The Phillies pick of Jacobson in '99 seemed pretty good at the time. Jacobson's college numbers were pretty good and Mike Lieberthal wasn't going to last forever, although he was in the middle of having a huge season for the Phillies when Jacobson was drafted.

Jacobson signed too late to play professional ball in '99 and started his pro career in 2000 with Piedmont of the South Atlantic League. His debut season was good, but he didn't put up overwhelming numbers. The Phillies didn't get too concerned, since Jacobson started at a pretty high level, considering his background. The worry started to show a little in 2001 when Jacobson played at Clearwater and hit just .208 with 4 homeruns. In 2002, the worry turned to true disappointment when Jacobson moved along to Reading and hit just .195 at the AA level.

As Jacobson's progress was slowing, Mike Lieberthal had undergone various injuries and the Phillies were starting to look at their future behind the plate. At the time, Johnny Estrada was in the system, so the Phillies figured they had their catcher of the future. Estrada's success in the minor leagues and a decent showing as a fill-in for Lieberthal gave the Phillies reason to believe that if Jacobson never really did progress, it wasn't going to really affect the future of the club. That changed with one phone call from the Braves.

In some respects, dealing Estrada was a move the GM Ed Wade didn't want to do. After all, catchers don't just pop up in your organization everyday and with Estrada, the Phillies felt secure behind the plate. Besides that, there wasn't anyone else that the club could look to for the catcher of the future title. Still, the Braves were offering Kevin Millwood and the deal had to be made.

As 2003 began, the Phillies looked around and saw that their catching situation was very thin. With Estrada gone, the Phillies figured that they would just have to hope for the best and keep their eyes open for a young catching prospect in a trade or perhaps, in the draft.

Now, with 2004 here, the Phillies are starting to believe that they may have the answer to their catching problems within the organization. They figure to know the real answer later this summer. Russ Jacobson, who came into the 2003 season with a career .218 minor league average in three seasons, hit .275 in his second season at Reading. Jacobson's season was shortened by an injury, but the Phillies still saw at least a ray of hope. The numbers weren't necessarily great, but enough of an improvement to believe that Jacobson might be on his way. Plus, the improvement came after a season in the Arizona Fall League where Jacobson hit .273 against some of the best pitching prospects in the game.

While Jacobson's power numbers – he hit 19 homeruns in 2000 and only 8 since – have fallen off the chart, he has improved in other areas. The biggest improvement has been defensively. Jacobson commited just three errors last season and several pitchers noted their respect for how Jacobson handled them in game situations.

The jury is still out, but with a big season in 2004, Jacobson could start to make at least a little bit of a name for himself. Nobody is confusing or comparing Jacobson with Estrada, but at least there is hope that the catching in the Phillies organization might not be as bad as it's been made out to be.

Russ Jacobson's Career Stats

 

Year/Team

HR

RBI

AVG

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

BB

KO

2000 Piedmont (Low A)

19

71

.247

102

348

43

86

17

0

29

105

2001 Clearwater (High A)

4

40

.208

102

351

35

73

21

2

27

99

2002 Reading (AA)

3

34

.195

86

282

20

55

15

0

18

78

2003 Reading (AA)

1

5

.275

37

109

9

30

4

0

7

16

Career Minor League Stats

27

150

.224

327

1090

107

244

57

2

81

298

 


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