So the Mariners went ahead and drafted another catcher. I know what you must be thinking: “But wait! The Mariners already have a highly drafted catcher playing for them RIGHT NOW and he was the only one of several first round catchers the Mariners have taken in years passed to pan out and even still, he is not playing particularly well and our opinion of him is inflated by solid defense and the reality that his only tool at his disposal just so happens to be the flashiest offensive tool a player can have, even if it hasn’t really shown itself in months as he is basically a guess hitter still who can only run into pitches like a somewhat more lithe and certainly more Italian iteration of Paul Bunyan.”
Whoa! Watch the run-on sentences, reader. As you do so, listen to me preach.
Alex Jackson is a boom-or-bust prospect. The excitement for him comes from his bat, which profiles as plus in the majors, with most of that value and projection coming from his 60 grade power which has a chance to grade higher should he develop as many anticipate he will.
Jackson stands at 6’3” and weighs in officially at 220lbs though some scouts claim that number is actually a bit low. He is athletic but not particularly fleet of foot and most likely profiles as a slightly-above average outfield defender with slightly below-average range due principally to an excellent arm which undoubtedly comes as no surprise given his background as a High School catcher (and a fairly well-regarded one).
Watching some brief highlight tapes of Jackson are clearly misleading—as highlights are a very honest and open skewing of a player’s median talent level being a compilation of things that player has done well, looped together to erect the fairly flimsy façade that this is how that player performs all the time.
That being said, there are some pretty damn impressive highlights. Straight away it is easy to notice why scouts fell in love with Jackson’s bat. The only hiccup that I could foresee is in regards to a timing mechanism that may cause some issues during slumps. Essentially I see a guy who will likely be a timing hitter, and being such will find himself prone to occasional slumps when his slightly-complex hitting mechanism “falls out of alignment” so to speak. Though, as these sorts of hitters tend to be, the hot streaks will likely balance out the former cold ones, provided his power grades out to its expected levels and, with his frame, work ethic and general bat-to-ball skills I expect that it should.
All-up, I am very impressed and pleased that Jackson fell to the Mariners as are most scouts in the baseball world. It seems the Mariners have fallen into a situation where they have added a player who will likely become almost immediately the top prospect in our organization while simultaneously filling a need that they have sought in vain for a few years now: a true power hitting corner outfielder. Note that when I say corner outfielder I actually MEAN a corner outfielder and not some 40-something first baseman that is being trotted out there for a lark, providing little with the bat and mitigating that production completely with the glove (or lack thereof) *cough* Ibanez *cough.*
On to the next, Minnestora to the Netherlands, Caravans, getting cheddah mannnnn. Round the world in a day, up in LA, Oklahoma, Dallas, Kansas City to the Bay!
The Mariners second round pick in the 2014 draft will undoubtedly have fans salivating over his potential. Listen to this one scout’s ridiculous and probably lazy but still pretty awesome and optimism-inspiring scouting comparison for Mr. Garreth Morgan:
“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 Lawrie, doesn’t have that kind of power. Joey Votto didn’t have his power, he’s more of a gap hitter.”
According to the paranoid schizophrenic Canadian interviewed here, Morgan projects to be probably the best player in the MLB. That is obviously unlikely. That being said, to warrant anything even resembling these glowing comparisons merits a second look. Morgan appears to be in a remarkably similar mold to the Mariners’ first round pick Jackson insofar as he is a young player with extremely high upside.
Where Morgan diverges curiously is in the competition he faced.
As a member of the Canadian Junior National team, Morgan faced players who were on their way to the MLB, and in facing those players he had the opportunity to let the bat play against pitchers who were throwing closer to the 90-92MPH range than the 82-84MPH range that most high school-aged players face on a daily basis. Additionally, he has ample experience using a wooden bat—which does nothing but enhance the perception of him as a legitimate threat in the middle of the order. His power is real, his power is impressive, and further his power is not inflated by an aluminum bat.
What excites me the most about the first 2 picks of this draft is the3 fact that Z has finally determined that we don’t need guys to simply rush through the system to the majors. It has been the MO of the Mariners for the past few years to go for guys with higher floor and somewhat lower ceilings for the sake of quick, safe production at the major league level. What we have discovered with these picks is that there is no such thing as a safe bet when drafting and evaluating baseball talent from college. If there are no safe bets, and everything is a gamble, does it not make more sense to invest those gambles in players with ceilings comparable to Major League stars? If you have 5 draft picks, would you rather draft 5 guys who each have a 20% chance to become average major league regulars, or draft 5 guys who each have a 5% chance of becoming legitimate stars? Average grows on trees in baseball. Average trees. The Mariners organization has had a whole motherfucking grove of average trees cultivating in Tacoma and the fruits of said trees have been decidedly average, which isn’t surprising, as that is the function of the average tree.
Playoff teams are differentiated by superstar performers. Do you think the A’s don’t have superstars on their roster? Josh Donaldson is worth 3 WAR and we aren’t even halfway through the season. When I hear a guy has high upside but is high risk, I am happy. Every single one of these guys that teams draft is high risk insofar as the risk is that they do not become a productive major leaguer. The fact that all of these low-floor low-ceiling guys make it to the big leagues quickly only to be terrible is evidence as to the fact that the “draft safe” strategy is not a good one. AAAA players are worthless. AAAA is not even a league that exists.
Who cares if a guy never makes it to the majors or if a guy makes it to the majors only to be useless when he gets there? Neither of them are helping you win. In fact, the second guy in that scenario might even hinder your opportunities to win actively.
Anyway, regardless of your opinions of the Mariners, they are sitting a few games above .500 right now and just added two potential impact bats to develop in their hopefully-soon-to-be-less depleted farm system. Legitimate reasons exist to get excited about this club, which is more than we have been able to say in quite some time. Glide with the thermal effervescence of hope and progress and drink your weight in hopskip when you later come crashing into the volcano of this team’s regression.