What to expect from Brett Jackson in 2012...and beyond

Today, many of you may have read that Brett Jackson was ranked at MLB.com as the 5th best OF prospect in the majors behind Bryan Harper, Mike Trout, Bubba Starling, and Wil Meyers.  Sometimes I'm inspired to write an article by questions that are put to me in the comments section, e-mail, etc.  In response to a question earlier today, I mentioned that I expected Jackson to be a "solid to good" major league regular, and by that I meant a player who puts up good all-around numbers annually and is on the cusp of making the all-star team every year.  He may even make a few all-star games, but I don't expect him to be a perennial participant, much less a Hall of Famer.  That's not to say he can't surpass my expectations, or course!

We've heard the scouting reports on Brett Jackson, which describe a player with average to above average tools across the board, good plate discipline, strong makeup and work ethic, and a slight concern about too many strikeouts.  But what does that translate to numbers-wise? I decided to look into it a little further...

Let's take a look at some of the projections for Brett Jackson in 2012:

ZiPS: .254/.335/.419 with 16 HRs and 22 SBs.  OPS+ is 99 (about an ML average offensive player)

Bill James: .251/.333/.434 with 9 HRs and 15 SBs.  wOBA is .342 (again, about ML average)

Keep in mind that James has him with less than half the plate appearances as ZiPS.  The slash lines are similar, but the biggest difference is in terms of speed and power.  Extrapolating James' numbers over the same number of PAs as ZiPS, you get about 20 HRs and 33 SBs.

So basically, if you want to talk standard numbers, we're talking about a .250 hitter with 15-20 HRs and 20-30 SBs in his first season.  He's also projected as an average CF'er and he would rank as very good in either corner. That's not a bad rookie season and, of course, there's every expectation that Jackson will get better as he gains experience and continues to develop, but those kind of numbers are a reasonable expectation for the upcoming season if Jackson makes the Opening Day roster.  As to what kind of player Jackson might be in his career, ZiPS came up with two interesting comps: Bernie Williams and Ray Lankford. They were actually more similar than you might think in terms of value at their peaks, it's just that Bernie Williams sustained his excellent play over a longer period of time.

In other words, what we should expect is an average MLB player his first year with the potential to be a good player down the road -- very good if he reaches the level of Bernie Williams.  Despite completely different body types, the stockier Lankford makes a better comparison to me because of the high strikeout and walk rate, though I expect Jackson to be a better defender at every OF position than Lankford was.

The trouble sometimes with comps is that we tend to forget how good some non-superstar players were.  We know how good Williams was, but Lankford is somewhat forgotten these days.  He did have a nice career, though, rating as a 4+ WAR player 6 times.  This included 4 seasons over 5 WAR and a career best of 6.5 WAR.  A very good player, indeed, but Lankford only made one all-star game in his career.   Would I be happy with that?  Yes, I think I would.  But like everyone else, I'm hoping he comes out to be a little bit more like Bernie Williams.

Filed under: Cubs, Projections, prospects


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  • If Jackson has a slash line similar to ZiPS or Bill James I think it would be a very good 1st year. Bernie Williams? I'll take it! Bernie had a career slash line of 297/381/477 with an OPS+ of 125. If Jackson can come close to that level of production the Cubs will have their CF'er for the next decade.

  • In reply to Zorb:

    I'm just worried about Jackson's strikeouts and whether it will affect his ability to hit for average, which made me think the Lankford comp might be more realistic. I can see him being a .275 hitter down the road. I'll take that as long as he's getting walks and contributing in every other category.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'd be as happy as a bug in a rug if Jax will be as good as Ray Lankford was. Lankford was a stud for the Cards in the '90s. In his second full season, his slash line was .293/.371/.480 with 20 HR and 42 SB. Yah, he struck out a lot (23 %), but his career BB rate was 12.4 %. He probably would have had a more renowned career had he not been slowed by shoulder and knee injuries.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    So would I. The power, the walks, the strikeouts, the speed, the left-handedness they all seem to match up well. Jackson is more of a lean guy while Lankford was a stocky sort, but otherwise there's a lot of similarities. I do think Jackson can be better defensively, though.

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    One of the comparisons I have seen before is that he also resembles Jim Edmonds. Edmonds always had a high number of K's as well. He certainly fits the new world order in that he can use the leather thing on the end of his hand, (sorry soriano) and knows how to take a pitch. Looking forward to a 2014 outfield of Jackson, Szczur and Soler.

  • In reply to Louie101:

    I think Edmonds is a lofty expectation (like Williams), but certainly not unreachable. I think that's one of your best case scenarios but I've heard that comp made before. Have also heard JD Drew.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    "Have also heard JD Drew."

    Hopefully minus the attitude and injuries....

  • In reply to Northside Neuman:

    No Jackson isn't like him from a personality standpoint at all. Jackson supposedly has good character and mental makeup. As far as injuries go, we can only hope he'll be healthy for most of his career.

  • Awesome. As good an upside as we've heard in the last... lately.

  • In reply to Dan Bradley:

    Ha! The thing about upside is that few reach it. We can get excited about Jackson, but a sobering thought is that Corey Patterson was expected to be a much better player than Jackson ever has. Had much bigger upside.

  • Saw BJ this summer and loved him. Smooth, natural, pure baseball player with great instincts. Bernie Williams comparison makes sense because he doesn't project as a pure power guy. Lenny Dykstra kind of came to mind for me because he goes all out. Great jumps in center, and a sweet LH swing.

  • In reply to jimmy mac1:

    We certainly won't have to worry about him playing hard. I think his OF play has improved and wouldn't surprise me if he wound up being above average in CF, which would make him a huge asset.

  • Wow - I'd sure take 20-30 SB's John. Heck, for that matter haven't been too many 4+ WAR in the Friendly Confines the past couple years either!

    I'm resigned to seeing this squad lose a bunch of games next year, but the payoff for some of those losing 2 of 3 homestands will be seeing the improved level of athleticism / speed across the board.

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    I guess part of the SB thing depends on Sveum but Jackson certainly seems to have the ability to do that.

    I'm thinking that they will probably be lose quite a bit of games well, but you can't rule out a team that plays good defense, especially if they pitch well. At any rate, I'm excited to see this team play because of the improved speed and athleticism.

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    john, i know it doesnt fit the theo jed idea, but with the market the way it is do you think there is any thought about derrick lee on a minor league deal and invite so he could end career as a cub maybe make the team and have a platoon with lahair at first.

  • In reply to Bryan Bell:

    It's not out of the realm of possibility and I don't think it's a bad idea. Lee would provide insurance too in case LaHair flops before the Cubs feel that Rizzo is ready

  • Fun with Baseball Reference's Play Index:
    Centerfielder's since 1961 with more than 170 K's, OBP above .340, and at least 20/20:
    Mike Cameron
    with 150+ K"s, .350+ OBP, 20/20:
    Grady Sizemore
    Matt Kemp
    Curtis Granderson
    BJ Upton
    Mike Cameron
    Ray Lankford

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    In reply to Norm:

    Those are some pretty solid players. I'd be thrilled if Brett Jackson joined that list.
    Here's hoping he makes the team out of Spring Training.

    It'd be great if some Cubs prospects (not named Starlin) would actually start making an impact in the bigs. It's been a while since we've had an offensive prospect do much of anything (or a pitching prospect who didn't have arm problems).

  • In reply to Norm:

    Jackson has a chance to be in some pretty nice company.

  • John, I just wrote a comment in your previous post... and then I saw this one. Nice!

    New question/thought for you -- does anyone look at "downside"? When I say that I wonder if there are any factors that people look at as increasing/decreasing the risk of being a bust. I'd imagine that the science is not exact (otherwise we'd see a lot fewer busts), but at the same time I wonder if there are at least a few measurables. My guess would be downside risk has to do more with what we can't see -- confidence/self-esteem (the head) and work ethic/character (the heart).

  • In reply to mosconml:

    Well, Jackson specifically, it's his contact issues (K's).

  • In reply to mosconml:

    Thanks! I think you always look at downside, or "floor". With Jackson it looks almost certain that he can be a major league player, but we did see him struggle a bit in AA for a while. With Jackson there's no problem with the head and the heart.

    The biggest concern is his inability to make consistent contact. While his defense, plate discipline, and speed will probably always be there, he could end up being a low average hitter (.240-.250) with lots of strikeouts. I guess the other big downside is that he gets injured a lot and, as I said yesterday, anybody can be a flop out there.

  • Corey Patterson!!! OMG ... there were few things that were as glorious as watching him run the bases. Going from home to third or from 1st to home was smooth and amazingly fast.

    He's still out there - got a ring with STL (don't remember if he was on their WS roster). Too bad; the continual reminder in baseball (and other sports) that the only sure thing is that there is none.

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    Exactly. I want to say Patterson was named the #2 prospect in baseball one year and was #3 the year before. You just never know. Always fun to look back and see the lists and how they turned out to remind yourself how unpredictable it can be. On the 2000-2001 lists where Patterson ranked so high, it's interesting to look further down the list a bit and see a Yankees SS named Alfonso Soriano. SS?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Apparently we have the same sick sense of humor John. The only thing funnier than imagining a 25 year old Soriano at SS is imagining Theo asking Starlin to slide over to 3rd base so that a 36 year old Soriano can play a bit of SS....

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    In 2003, he was having a breakout season until he got hurt. Was never quite the same after that. Of course we all remember the injury brought Kenny Lofton over here, which helped up make a run to the NLCS. Before that injury, he looked to be heading towards becoming a star.

  • I am pretty confident that Brett jackson is not Corey patterson 2.0 . I agree with John that Ray Lankford is a nice comparison , which I will take . I would love Brett to be another Jim Edmonds but let's be real, Edmonds had a near Hall Of Fame career and is considered one of the best defensive center fielders ever, pretty lofty comparison there.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Lankford was one of the ZiPS comps, but I think it's pretty realistic. He was a good player, but I think Jackson has a better baseball body and is a better defender, so there's some hope he can have a better career, and certainly one where he sustains his peak performance levels for a longer period of time. Edmonds is a common comp because some of the physical similarities but I do think a lot will have to go right for that to happen -- but then again, I don't think anyone thought Edmonds was going to be as good as he was at the time. I think in the end, comps are for fun, but it at least gives us a little idea of what to expect. For me, it always reminds me of how some good, but not great players, are so easily forgotten.

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    I think Jackson will be a stud, one of those players who excels beyond his projected ability. He seems to be a clutch hitter, something that as been missing for the Cubs since Sammy Sosa. Not similar numbers as Sosa mind you, but lots of big hits.

    I just heard a few people say the Cubs would sign Fielder and give LaHair to Boston as compensation for Theo, et al. Granted, this was not from baseball people per se, but hardcore fantasy players who are always in the know. Not believing that, my question is this: why are he Cubs always mentioned in Fielder rumors? What would hey do with Rizzo and LaHair?

  • In reply to Jive Wired:

    I hope so because his projected ability is pretty good. If he surpasses that he could be a star.

    Fielder to the Cubs is still in play because Boras wants it that way and Epstein doesn't mind if there are rumors out there that distract from what he's really trying to do. Other than, there's nothing to them. One interesting credible rumor is that the Tigers could use the Victor Martinez insurance money to sign Fielder to a huge ($30M?), one year deal. If Fielder doesn't get the mult-year deal he wants, that may be his best option.

  • IN 2002, the Cubs had these prospects (Writeups from rotoworld):
    **Hee Seop Choi - 1B Cubs - Age 23 - Wrist tendinitis ruined Choi's 2001 season, but it didn't change the fact that he's an excellent player. With Fred McGriff signed for one more year, the Cubs will be able to give Choi a full season at Triple-A Iowa. Choi could battle Prior for Rookie of the Year honors in 2003. He should eventually become one of the National League's top fantasy first basemen.
    **Juan Cruz - RHP Cubs - Age 21 Though he was inconsistent in Double-A, Cruz shined after being called up to the Cubs in August and is the team's fourth starter heading into 2002. Cruz's stuff is even better than Prior's. His fastball reaches 96 mph, and his slider can be devastating. He also has a better changeup than Prior. However, he does have some problems with control, walking a batter nearly every other inning last season. He's talented enough to survive while doing that, but he won't be truly great until he spots his pitches better
    **Mark Prior - RHP Cubs - Age 21 Prior, the second overall pick in the 2001 draft, did not pitch after coming to terms with the Cubs in August. Considering just how hard he had been worked while at USC, that was probably for the best. However, it pretty much eliminated any chance of Prior fitting into the Cubs' plans for 2002. Prior has excellent command of a mid-90s fastball and a first-rate curve. He could be ready to pitch for the Cubs after the All-Star break, but it's quite likely that they won't need him until 2003.
    **Bobby Hill - 2B Cubs - Age 23 - Preseason NR - Midseason HM - ETA: August 2002
    The switch-hitting Hill was limited by a strained groin last season, but he still put up good numbers in Double-A and posted a .442 on-base percentage in the Arizona Fall League. The Cubs considered letting him compete for the second base job next spring, but the re-signing of Delino DeShields should result in Hill spending at least a couple months in Triple-A. He could be Chicago's leadoff hitter come August.
    **Carlos Zambrano - RHP Cubs - Age 20
    Zambrano probably isn't 20 years old, but even if he's 23, he's still a very good prospect. He's been used as a starter in the minors and could succeed in that role in the majors, but the Cubs will probably use him as a reliever instead. Kyle Farnsworth is probably the heir to Tom Gordon's closer's job, so it doesn't look like Zambrano is going to have much fantasy value anytime soon. Still, he could help the Cubs out of the bullpen this year.
    **Ben Christensen - RHP Cubs - Age 24
    Christensen underwent shoulder surgery after making just three starts last season. He also missed time in 2000, so durability has become a huge concern for the 1999 first-round pick. When healthy, Christensen throws four pitches, the best being a 93-94 mph fastball. His hard slider has proven to be difficult to hit. If he can stay healthy, it won't be long before Christensen is ready for the majors. However, with Chicago's pitching depth, he may have to wait until 2004 to make a major contribution.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Some great prospects. Christensen had some serious, serious makeup problems and that combined with injuries to derail him. Cubs took a flyer and it didn't work.

    Funny that Cruz was thought to be the better prospect than Zambrano, not just by this source, but by a lot of people out there.

  • I know it's a lot, but here are some other write ups from 2004 (From rotoworld and BA):
    **Felix Pie - OF Cubs - Age 19 -
    2004 quote: The native of the Dominican Republic is already an outstanding defensive center fielder and he has the ability to become a very good hitter. As of right now, he projects as a Johnny Damon-type player.
    It looks like I'm the standout here, but in 2005, BA moved Pie up to No. 31 after an unexceptional year in high-A ball (.287/.358/.441, 116/39 K/BB ratio in 431 AB). I held him steady at No. 43.
    **Andy Sisco - LHP Cubs - Age 21
    2004 quote: He also has some maturity issues -- he missed nearly two months of last season with a broken left hand sustained while punching a wall -- but since he doesn't turn 21 until January, that's not a major concern.
    It turned into a major concern. Sisco's arm problems have done more to doom his career, but he certainly hasn't helped things with his attitude.
    **Angel Guzman - RHP Cubs - Age 22 -
    2004 quote: The Cubs are very excited about Guzman and his hard, sinking fastball, but the shoulder surgery that ended his 2003 season was a significant setback.
    BA ranking Guzman 26th even after he had labrum damage repaired illustrates just how much the scouty types liked the right-hander. I think Guzman was overrated right from the start, but who knows what would have happened had he remained healthy. He's still not hopeless now.
    **Todd Wellemeyer - RHP Cubs - Age 25 -
    2004 quote: The numbers aren't pretty, but Wellemeyer has a major league arm and he was dominant in his early appearances for the Cubs, striking out 12 in 7 2/3 scoreless innings during May. … With a mid-90s fastball and plus changeup, Wellemeyer is talented enough to succeed as a starter or a reliever.
    It looks like this one is going to turn out just fine after all. Wellemeyer was a personal favorite of mine. BA had him ranked 13th in a Cubs system that placed six in the top 100.
    **Bobby Brownlie - RHP Cubs - Age 23 - ETA: June 2005
    2004 quote: Brownlie was a candidate to be the first pick in the 2002 draft before hurting his shoulder during his junior season at Rutgers. He ended up going 21st overall to the Cubs and held out for a while before signing in March. Brownlie pitched well in his first action as a pro, but he was shut down in July as a precaution because of more shoulder troubles.
    Brownlie lost his best stuff to shoulder problems, and while he's still trying, it doesn't look like he'll ever reach the majors.
    **DONALD VEAL, lhp, Cubs
    His delivery isn't quite as unconventional as former Chicago farmhand Dontrelle Willis', but his stuff is better
    Opening Day Age: 22. ETA: 2008
    **JEFF SAMARDZIJA, rhp, Cubs
    Most accomplished wide receiver in Notre Dame history has huge upside on the mound
    Opening Day Age: 22. ETA: 2009

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    I have to take some issue with the "scouty types" comment by the author. Of course, it came a few years ago when the "statsy types" completely dismissed old school thinking and thought they were going to take over the entire evaluation process. Well, after some failed attempts to do that, we know now that stats are a part of the game but they cannot explain everything. Baseball evaluation is as it should be at this point -- a blend between art and science, of scoutsy and statsy.

    In regard specifically to Guzman, he was one of my favorite prospects. His stuff and command was arguably as good as Prior's. It wasn't scouting that was necessarily wrong, it was his arms inability to hold up under a heavier workload. A shame we never saw what he could have done.

  • I'm just saying you never know. But it is so much fun to get excited about prospects. We had hardly anyone in the top 100 for a long time...

  • In reply to Break The Curse:


  • Switching topics once again - mlbtraderumors reported last night that the Cubs, Marlins and Tigers are the three teams 'most actively targeting' Cespedes:

    If the Cubs sign Cespedes, how would you feel about signing Edwin Jackson as well? Acquiring Cespedes changes the time frame for competing in the central, so why not grab a good, not great starter who won't be paid market value and can provide solid innings in the middle of the rotation?
    If the Cubs don't sign Cespedes, this whole argument is moot, and I'd avoid Jackson.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Cespedes will need minor league time. So it doesn't really change the course for 2012. No thanks on Edwin Jackson. I'm sure there will be a couple of his types in FA next offseason.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Cespedes does move up the time frame, but I don't have any info on Edwin Jackson. That doesn't mean they don't have any interest if the price comes down, but as of now I don't see it happening.

    I know you've been a big fan of Jackson, but the interest seems to be lukewarm overall. For a variety of reasons, teams seem to be wary of giving him a long term deal. Does he sign a one year deal? Maybe, but I'm not sure what he can prove in one more year that he hasn't already -- plus he'll be a year older. If the deal comes down into the 3 yr/30M range, things could get interesting, but anything I say at this point would be speculation -- but what I will say if his price comes down that far (or even more), there will be a few teams out there who can probably offer a better situation than the Cubs. It's a tough spot for them. Personally, the only way I think they sign him is if they make an aggressive offer and I don't think that will happen.

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    By the way, I'm Mike, I just log in via my Facebook account for my company, which is why it says Jivewired.

    John, I agree with your assessment. Guzman could have been a stud. It seemed like the guy could never get out of the starting blocks. Didn't he throw a one-hitter once or am I just imagining that?

    And yeah, whatever the Cubs were using to draft and measure prospects ten years ago was dead wrong. Rather than post the reports, it might be more interesting to see who was drafted (or how many players were drafted) after each player was picked that had a better career.

  • In reply to Jive Wired:

    Cool, I can call you Mike instead of JiveWired.

    You just imagined it, unless it happened in the minors maybe. I don't believe he ever pitched a complete game in the majors.

    I believe I did an article like that once a while back. Here's the link...


    Unfortunately we used a different format then and it didn't transfer the way I had it written, but you get the general point, I think.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I never saw this article. Great stuff!

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Thanks! Had a series of those early on. Maybe I should re-format and start a Cubs Den Archives series. Think there were ones on best and worst trades too as well as some other nostalgic lists on some favorites (i.e. favorite reserve outfielders). Maybe I'll dig them out if there's some interest.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    By the way, did you notice that two of the first rounders the Cubs passed up for Harvey are now on the team (Paul Maholm and Ian Stewart)?

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    John, that is a GREAT article. Why do I think the scouting staff of the Cubs at times resembles the cast of characters (at least as they were portrayed on film) in Moneyball?

  • In reply to Jive Wired:

    I've done that before. Which makes me wonder why I still have a day job! I saved it in a spreadsheet to send to my friend. I think I started in 2000 and went from there.

    Order Staff Relievers
    Jose Reyes Cliff Lee Daniel Bard
    Robinson Cano Josh Johnson Jonathan Papelbon
    Jose Bautista Matt Garza John Axford
    Albert Pujols Madison Bumgardener Neftali Feliz
    Brian McCann Dan Haren Koji Uehara
    Carlos Gonzalez
    Curtis Granderson
    Mike Stanton

    Back Ups
    Geovany Soto
    Dan Uggula
    Michael Borne

  • Sorry, that didn't post right

    Jose Reyes
    Robinson Cano
    Jose Bautista
    Albert Pujols
    Brian McCann
    Carlos Gonzalez
    Curtis Granderson
    Mike Stanton

    Cliff Lee
    Josh Johnson
    Matt Garza
    Madison Bumgardener
    Dan Haren

    Daniel Bard
    Jonathan Papelbon
    John Axford
    Neftali Feliz
    Koji Uehara

    Back Ups
    Geovany Soto
    Dan Uggula
    Michael Borne

  • Thanks for posts Curse, it's really fun to see projections and to actually be able to see how they panned out. Good times

  • In reply to johnnywest333:

    Agreed, thanks BTC!

  • For those still interested, it seems the Tigers are about to sign Prince Fielder to a 9 year deal (via Jeff Passan of Yahoo and MLB TradeRumors)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    $214M, by the way. The evil genius Scott Boras succeeds once again!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I am flabbergasted. That is a way worse contract than the Soriano deal.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    They will be ruing that deal in about 4-5 years -- but man they'll be tough on pitchers for the next 2-3 seasons.

  • Just saw that as well...guess they won't be buyers for Fonzi or Garza once that goes down. That will be a pretty lethal (and fat) middle of the order.

  • In reply to cowboy2024:

    They're out on Soriano, but I'm not ruling out Garza. If they're going all out for the next couple of years, maybe Garza makes sense.

  • Good so that gets Pujols and Fielder out of the National League...2012 is looking a lot better then I thought :)

  • In reply to johnnywest333:

    Better, but Cards and Reds still the favorites, imo.

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