Alex Jackson, RF
If the best hitter this year is a high schooler, then ...


... here is what Dr. D infers from the videos, the hitting templates, and the general consensus of the great evaluators of teenaged baseball players.  Not too much.  But we need a thread :- )


Q.  What does the Mainframe NOT like about his swing?

A.  Thusly:

1) Way too much lower-body "noise" in the load.  Compare Franklin, Nick, who had to completely re-tool his backswing after reaching the majors.  This is a quibble, though, because Jackson has belched things bigger than Nick Franklin.

2) The finish, to me, goes beyond "compact" into "tight and tense."  Dr. D should know; that's his finish in softball.  Another quibble; it's not like it saps Jackson's power the way it saps Dr. D's.

3) He doesn't sink his weight well.  Objectively speaking that's a personal thing of mine.  Mike Piazza didn't sink his weight.

4) In the big picture, a swing only means so much.  There's also the little matter of

  • AAA hand-eye coordination, and reflexes, vs.
  • MLB hand-eye coordination, and reflexes, vs
  • All-Star hand-eye coordination, and reflexes

See Clement, Jeff.  And tell me how you, I, or any blogger is going to gauge that for a high school kid.  

We aren't, but we do have Jack Zduriencik, Tom McNamara, and every other world-class evaluator of teenagers --- > saying that Jackson's hand-eye coordination, and reflexes, are worthy of a #1 overall draft pick.


It was interesting, though:  right out of college, Inside Pitch told us that Clement would never have good pitch recognition.  Clement wasn't a high schooler, of course.  For high schoolers, sabermetricians are worse than useless.  Here is the domain of the Roger Jongewaard and Jack Zduriencik ...

Who promptly compared Alex Jackson to his Milwaukee grand slams, Prince Fielder and Steve Braun.


Q.  What DOES the Mainframe like about his swing?

A.  Thusly:

1) The plane of the bat is a KBZILT arc -- it naturally matches the incoming energy.

2) The finish is pleasantly arc'ed with the delicate suggestion of topspin -- Joe DiMaggio, ARod, whose homers tend to not the "extra-long fly balls" .... but tend to be those low, rising liners that clear the fence.  Literally like one of Moe's 1-woods off the tee, with draw and roll.  You hear the term "tee shot."  Joe D, ARod, maybe Alex Jackson, those are "tee shot" swings.

3) The power is natural - he hits it out of the stadium with a thick waist.  Like Mike Napoli and Mike Piazza ...

..., not like the Jose Cansecos, Mike Morses, and Nelson Cruzes who have big chests but narrow waists and get the accusations.

4) The guts of the swing:  very short and quick to the ball.  He's a legit behemoth, a Frank Thomas or Jim Thome type body, and that's pretty rare in the bigs -- light-tower power, out of the core of the torso, without needing much load.

5) So it's kind of an Edgar situation (with the caveat that Edgar always walked a mortal ton).  It's easy to visualize this guy, at age 23, smoking doubles to right-center and tape measure jobs to left-center.


Q.  Best timeline?

A.  The M's didn't hesitate to get Mike Zunino up here, now did they... McNamara, who said "we were pretty excited in that room" to get Jackson "falling" to #6 overall, pointed out that some high-school games are pretty Big Time these days.

Bill James' timeline for a blue-chip prospect out of high school:

  • Rips up A+ ball at 20
  • Cleanup hitter in AA at 21
  • Mashes AAA at 22
  • (MOTO hitter in bigs at 24 - Dr D threw that in)

Some guys beat the timeline.  Giancarlo Stanton slugged .507 in the National League at age 20.  They didn't see that coming, exactly; Stanton was a 2nd-round pick.


Q.  Jackson's chances?

A.  Lookout Landing allowed "superstar upside" ... looking at the general template here, we'll gingerly guess:

  • 10% chance of All-Star team
  • 20% chance of MOTO hitter, some day
  • 30% chance of quality MLB regular (roughly)
  • 70% chance of pretty good MLB playing time

Those numbers are conservative, but not absurdly so, like giving Jackson a max "60" for future power.

Look, you don't have to apologize to LrKrBoi29 for gushing about Alex Jackson.  It's a super high draft pick.  It's about the best "Draw at the Deck" you are going to get, to pull your own --- > Giancarlo Stanton out of the pile.  Alex Jackson was the best hitting prospect this year.


Q.  Fave linkage today?

A.  At John Sickels', sometimes the commenters are better than blogs are.  This guy was kewl and was /cosigned by the author of the article:


I’ve gotten to see Alex Jackson a lot as I have an acquaintance that coaches at rancho.

to state the obvious he’s a really big kid. I like to get a feel for the prospects at showcases by standing next to them and sizing them up. I’m a big guy, 6’2" and about 220 pounds and Jackson is definitely heavier than me. I’d say the 215 is off and he’s over 230.

Big bodied kid that could get soft down the road. More like a mini version of Adam Dunn in 5-10 years. The athleticism is only average now, and that will go south as he gets older. I don’t see him sticking behind the plate. His feet are fairly slow back there and it would take a big investment of time and focus to get him to be a passable pro receiver.

That would take time and developmental focus away from the bat, which is the obvious reason you are drafting him.

With the stick there is lots to love. Big power and, maybe I’m bullish on the bat, but I see 280+ averages as well. As he packs on the pounds he may turn into the classic low ave, plus power type, but while his weight is in check I could see some decent averages.

I’m not sure if even RF is a long term destination, maybe his 1st few years depending on how big he gets. I see him being more of a LF/1B type in 10 years, which is obviously a waste of his arm, but may suit his body and athleticism better.


Meanwhile, D.J. Peterson is wasting his time in A+ ball.  The base of the talent pyramid looks pretty blinkin' good in Seattle.  Where was Jack in the late 1990's? 

Be Afraid,

Dr D





Brent's picture

I think you mean Ryan Braun... ;)
Oddly, Steve Braun was the batter on the only MLB foul ball I ever caught. Kingdome, of course.


Alex Jackson was the best bet for a teen power hitter in this draft, and probably the best power bet overall.  Jack and Tom seemed thrilled to get him, giddy even - he was THE prep bat worth throwing money down on as a plus offensive player early, and he got to us.  And make no mistake, we WILL be throwing money at him - Boras is his agent.  I really thought we'd go pitching as I figured Jackson wouldn't be there, but I have NO problem drafting the bat.  He won't stay at catcher, but he doesn't have to.  Most catchers who hit in the pros are "former" catchers, and I care more about his hitting.
Offensive output?  We're looking at Ryan Klesko upside, basically (except from the right side).  Klesko threw low-90s from the mound as a teen too, don't forget - before his arthritis and back issues he was pretty spry.  He had that deep chest / thick waist / rotational power thing.  He'd just lean back, let the hands fly, and take his 25 HRs and 35 doubles every year.  In the post-roid era, that's worth a LOT.
Ryan Klesko isn't a name that fires up the imagination, maybe, but when you ain't got one it certainly would help - and Klesko was worth 27 WAR over his .280/.370/.500 career.  Similarity scores give you Justice, Salmon, Floyd, Mondesi, Jason Bay...
In theory, he's the 800-pound gorilla we've been wanting - or at least 600 pounds.  He has some stuff to work on, but his arm is Buhner-strong for RF duty and once he quiets down a little at the plate he should be able to swat it out of any ballpark.  Pitch-recognition is a key, but I don't know enough about his to say one way or the other.  Nobody else seems worried about it, so I won't be either at the moment.
The first day of this year's draft is actually the prep version of last year's draft.  First we took the guy who has been jacking them out of every ball-park, with an indeterminate infield/outfield position and with huge upside, most of which he should be able to reach.  Then with the second pick we took the outstanding outfield athlete with light-tower power who doesn't really do it in games yet.
Last year it was Austin Wilson (who is starting to put a hurt on the MWL) with his Stanford training to unlearn and his swing to shorten.  This year it's Gareth Morgan, the Canadian high schooler.  We saw a LOT of him last year (when we drafted his traveling squad teammates Tank O'Neill and Lachlan Fontaine) and even then Morgan was making noise.  People were talking about him as a potential top-10 pick this year.  He's fast but runs... awkwardly, all tiptoes.  He's got a good arm but not especially accurate.  He has incredible power - when you see him catch one it is GONE, and he might have more pure power than Jackson.
But Gareth has had trouble reading pitches, and making full contact.  His lower body was WAY loose, he hatchets at the ball sometimes and then other times is perfectly still.  He's a project, in the same way 18 year old Greg Halman was a project, but his tools are undeniable.  He trains speed with Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson, was the youngest player ever to make Canada's junior national team (at 14)... he lights it up everywhere but in the batter's box currently.
Of course, he's facing mostly 90+ mph pitchers with wood, while other preps are facing low-80s pitchers with aluminum or composite.  He turned 18 in April and apparently his pitch recognition is improving as well.  The kid has time to develop, but we'd best plan on giving it to him. We have taken toolsy arms and made them into great pitchers, but I'm trying to think of the toolsy bat we've EVER made into a real hitter. James Jones?  The Ms have been on Morgan for a LONG time, though.  Jack flew to the Dominican just to see Morgan play, so you have to think he's the guy we wanted.
Great scout quotes from the Toronto Sun: 

“He has Edwin Encarnacion’s power and body with Jose Bautista’s outfield tools,” said one veteran scout. “Gareth is unlike any Canadian player I can think of. He has Justin Morneau’s power from right side.
“But Gareth is a better athlete. Justin was a catcher than couldn’t catch, Michael Saunders was a really good outfielder, Gareth has way more power than Saunders. Brett Lawire, doesn’t have that kind of power. Joey Votto didn’t have his power, he’s more of a gap hitter.”
Power is a great tool to have.  We now have two teens entering the system with plus to plus-plus power. But power alone won't get it done.  Here's hoping we can train up some of their other tools as well.
And maybe find some arms for the system while we're at this draft thing today.

GLS's picture

I think the reality is that when you're drafting players in the third round (or thereabouts, i.e. #74), there are no perfect prospects. Even with college-age players, baseball is the hardest sport to project success at the highest professional level. And when you're drafting players 3 years younger than that, it's just that much harder. Especially with hitters, you just don't know which ones will have that combination of raw talent, baseball intelligence, perseverance and work ethic to make the adjustments to hitting at the major league level.
But Gareth Morgan is the kind of player that you would like to see your team stock up on - projectable tools, high upside, draft him and get him in the system and see what happens in his age 18-21 seasons while working under professional instruction. If it works out, you could have a franchise cornerstone. If not, then you move on. Baseball is hard.


Mentioned by the mlb crew that surprised me. His high school doesn't have a baseball team (This appears to be false). One scout uttered the name "Giancarlo" as a comp to one of the hosts (don't recall who). Presumably that's only about his power being absolutely top notch. I'm really not used to there being so much online about such a late pick. Videos and commentaries aplenty. Some of my favorite finds, that suggest he's much more than just powerful:
6.7 60-yard dash time at the Tournament 12 showcase at Rogers Centre ranked among the top 10 fastest.
“He made an adjustment,” said Ontario Blue Jays coach Danny Bleiwas, “he now can pick up the spin on breaking pitches and has the ability to lay off those or drive a pitch to right field.”
“It’s a good thing he isn’t playing high school in California or Florida with an aluminium bat or they would have carted a pitcher off the field,” said another scout. “He might be a 30-homer guy in the majors. All these high school hitters he’s being compared against ... most pitchers are throwing 82-85 mph while he’s faced guys throwing 90-92 MPH.”
Played for Langley Blaze in Arizona last Spring going 7-for-13 with 2 doubles a HR and a BB in 4 games vs MiL teams (Cubs, Pads, Brew, Reds). Also a nice running catch. Over 100 scouts, 7 scouting directors watched at least some part of that performance.
He's been hitting with wood since he was 14.
In 2011 he was ranked #3 prospect in North America for 2014.
He was flown out for a workout at Safeco Tuesday and Zduriencik flew to Santo Domingo to watch him at some other point. It sounds like the 2 guys the M's were hoping to get on day 1 were there for them.
What to call him though? Morgan, GM and Gar all remind me of others. Gareth it is? G - Armor? Ogre?


we can call Paxton, Wilson, and Morgan "the Fallen Angels" for how we got them in the draft.


I mentioned it in the shouts, but I have heard from several sources that Morgan is a kid who has done EVERYTHING possible to make himself the best that he can be. I read one comment that the kid even tries too hard to relax (the loose bottom end noted elsewhere?). I mean, an (disgraced) Olympian as a running coach?
He's played on multiple teams virtually every year - can you imagine all the voices in his head? I believe the Langley Blaze coach - that when he settles in and relaxes, he recognizes pitches and does real damage.
I have dealt with kids like this before, and a little maturity is going to go a LONG way, and getting into a routine with focused coaching will bring out the talent. He has little to un-learn (as Wilson aand Miller, for examples, had to). If he's in Lawrie's class as a hitter, as the Blaze coach implies, he'll settle in and blossom. And if he has the same drive and intensity as Lawrie and gets a little maturity to temper it, he may surprise the pundits.
Dave Valle "affability with an edge" may be just the right kind of coach to get him settled in and getting into the routine - his work ethic is not in question, so he doesn't need someone to get on his case, just a guy to help him adjust and polish. (The anti-Montero?)
GLS's take is spot on - get him into the pro game with good consistent coaching and see what happens. I think the chances of hitting gold are REALLY good.


Gareth's Alma Mater is a very elite private school, co-ed, with 175 students and does not compete in sports. Gareth has played for a number of national and regional teams.

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