An eighth round pick by the New York Yankees in 2005, Jackson was more athlete than baseball player at the time of his selection. Signing quickly for $800,000, Jackson debuted with the Gulf Coast League Yankees, and his debut was a rousing success. In 40 games, Jackson knocked eleven doubles and two triples to help him toward a strong .304/.374/.405 line with eleven stolen bases and only two caught stealing.
The Yankees sent him to the South Atlantic League for the 2006 season, playing everyday with Charleston. In his first taste of full-season ball, Jackson proved to be as raw as many analysts predicted, whiffing 151 times en route to an uninspired .260/.340/.346 line.
Starting the 2007 season back in Charleston, Jackson only marginally improved upon his numbers from the prior campaign. The Yankees promoted him to High-A around mid-season, and Jackson played in 67 games with Tampa. Something clicked after the promotion, as Jackson went on a tear; hitting an outstanding .345/.398/.566 to vault him up prospect charts.
Moving up to Double-A for the 2008 season, Jackson again impressed, as he continued to translate his raw tools to solid performances. With Trenton in the Eastern League, Jackson managed a .285/.354/.419 line with 33 doubles and nine home runs, as well as 19 steals.
It was only logical that Jackson would move up to Triple-A for the 2009 season, and he didn't disappoint. In 132 games, Jackson posted a .300 batting average with 24 steals and 36 extra-base hits.
Come December, Jackson was on the move from the only organization he had ever known. Jackson was one of the big pieces coming back to the Tigers in exchange for outfielder Curtis Granderson.
So much of Jackson's scouting report still centers on potential and tools, instead of useable game skills. Jackson has a plus hit tool, and he has the potential to routinely hit .300-plus because of his speed and ability to square up balls regularly. He struggles with the swing and miss in his game at times, and he will always likely strike out a fair amount; which could limit his ability to hit for average at times.
His power is largely a matter of projection at this point, but many scouts still see a guy that should hit for average power with more doubles power than home run pop. He has shown improved ability to translate his power to the field early this season, and there is still hope that he will continue bringing his power to the fore.
Grades for Jackson's speed range from above-average to plus, with scouts giving him scores ranging from 60 to 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Jackson has good base running instincts and he should steal 20-plus bases on a regular basis at the Major League level.
Jackson's speed helps him defensively, as he can cover plenty of ground from gap to gap in center field. He has steadily improved his jumps and routes, and most observers consider him a plus defender in the outfield, with room to continue improving. His arm is above-average and he gets rid of it quickly.
For all of Jackson's present ability, there is still room for growth over the next few years. At just 23-years old, Jackson's power is likely to blossom, and he has a chance to polish the remainder of the game. As it stands now, Jackson will likely be a solid big league center fielder, but he still has the potential to be an occasional All-Star at the position.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% AAA
Jackson hasn't suffered any significant injuries during his baseball career. He is a diligent worker and he keeps himself in exceptional physical condition at all times.
The future is here for Jackson. Just as the Tigers hoped, he earned his slot as the Opening Day center fielder. While he will likely have his ups and downs during the 2010 season, he has the potential to produce at the same or even a better level than Granderson. The Tigers truly believe they have found one of the centerpieces of their team over the next few years, and many scouts tend to agree.
It will be important for Jackson to continue working hard to translate his raw skills to game action. If he were to stagnate at this juncture, he would be a fourth outfielder or second division starter, which would be a disappointment. Tiger fans will need to be patient with Jackson this season, but if he survives being thrust into the everyday big league lineup, their expectations should go up next year.
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