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  • Twins Draft Preview: Alex Jackson

    As Twins fans have endured three straight 90-plus loss seasons, it’s been obvious that one of – and probably the biggest – roots of the problem is the lack of quality starters. Essentially, the Twins have employed a collection of #4 starters and have failed to draft or sign frontline starters. We saw the late 2012 trades to acquire Alex Meyer and Trevor May followed by the drafting of Texas prep hurler Kohl Stewart as signs that the Twins recognized this issue and have started to correct it.

    Yet in the back of every fan’s mind is the idea that the Twins can never have enough “toolsy” players in their system. (They might be right)... and that the Twins love to draft those players right out of high school. (Because they do!)

    So when the clock starts ticking on the Twins, which direction do they go? Well, that’s not for us to decide. But if they choose to go the way of the “tools”, you better know about this guy.

    Who is this guy?

    Alex Jackson has been on the prospect map since 2010, when he started at Rancho Bernardo (Escondido, CA) HS as a freshman. That’s no small feat at a school that has produced Cole Hamels and Hank Blalock, among others. He smashed 17 home runs as a sophomore and was the most impressive player at the 2012 Area Code Games… as an underclassman. His star started rising when he was only 15 years old and it continues to go up.

    Jackson, who has played catcher through high school, has two plus tools: power and arm strength.

    Though there are college guys with more present-day power, no one offers more raw power than the 6’ 2”, 215-lb Jackson.

    His arm strength is equally impressive: he was clocked at 91 mph from behind home plate at the 2013 Perfect Game National Showcase, setting a Perfect Game record.

    Why the Twins will pick him

    The Twins would pick Jackson – just like they’d pick anyone – because he’s the top guy on their board when they come to the podium. But why he’d be the top guy on their board is much more important. His right-handed power would play perfectly at Target Field. His likely ability to be able to stick behind home plate long-term in a system that lacks a single top-flight catching prospect would be an added benefit.

    In a draft that lacks a lot of hitting quality, Jackson is the cock of the walk.

    None of this even mentions his character. Last summer, Jackson was one of three high schoolers who helped raise over $10,000 for a local children’s hospital.

    Why the Twins will not pick him

    As the introduction stated, the Twins “organizational need” is pitchers. And paragraphs later was an allusion to the need in the organization for catchers. Truth is, Jackson isn’t a pitcher and there’s a pretty good chance he’s not going to be a catcher either.

    With a bat that is considered the highest-ceiling in the draft, there is a very good chance the first thing Jackson does after signing his first professional contract is hang up the catchers’ gear. Jackson has the ideal power/arm strength combination to make a smooth move to right field, where his bat could sooner reach The Show. There’s also belief that if he’s athletic enough to catch professionally – and he is, with work – there is little doubt he wouldn’t be athletic enough to play third base. In any scenario, the value is in the bat.

    The Oregon-commit is being advised by Scott Boras. That’s not to say the Twins should avoid drafting him solely for this reason; however, Boras does a great job getting his clients as much money as possible… and the #5 spot in the draft is not getting him as much money as possible. (Long explanation longer: Expect Jackson to be off the board when the Twins select.)

    It should be noted that Scott Boras pushed for the Nationals to move Bryce Harper to the outfield, and though that wouldn’t necessarily be a fair comparison, Jackson could simply be next in line to make the same change, much like Wil Myers did more recently.

    And the end of the day, there are not many reasons to argue against the Twins selecting Alex Jackson, besides the fact that he’s viewed by many to be too talented to be on the board when the Twins pick.

    ----

    Follow me on Twitter at @jeremynygaard for much more draft coverage this week.

    Special thanks to Justin Rinaldi for his picture of Alex Jackson featured in this article.
    Comments 13 Comments
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Good writeup. So basically, If he's there at #5, other than the 'big 3'...Twins have to select him.
    1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
      Jeremy Nygaard -
      I wouldn't say they "have" to. I'll be honest. If I'm the Astros, I chose between Aiken and Jackson. If I'm the Marlins, I choose between Aiken, Jackson and Rodon. If I'm the White Sox, I take the guy that's left. That's my Top 3. Kolek, Gordon and Nola are my next three.

      But that's me. And though I know the Twins like him, it's impossible to know what's going on in the draft room right now.
    1. Menth12's Avatar
      Menth12 -
      Does Jackson project to hit for average or does he only have a power bat?
    1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
      Jeremy Nygaard -
      That's the hardest thing to gauge as a high some. I've heard ceiling of .280, 30 HRs.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Certainly one of the top guys. I would not complain if he is the puck. KLaw said recently a team should leave him at catcher for a year or so, to see if he can stick. He, I think, believes that is a real possibility.
    1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
      Jeremy Nygaard -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Certainly one of the top guys. I would not complain if he is the puck. KLaw said recently a team should leave him at catcher for a year or so, to see if he can stick. He, I think, believes that is a real possibility.
      I would love that. I had a "spirited" discussion about that exact possibility with someone in the Twins organization.

      The summary:
      Me: "He has more value if he stays at catcher."
      Him: "Sure, but he has value otherwise."
      Me: "Well, then, I'd rather have a pitcher than another outfielder."
      Him: "Have you seen him play... like, in person?"
      Me: "No."
      Him: "That's what I thought."

      So his 30+ games of seeing him probably trumps my type of scouting.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy Nygaard View Post
      I would love that. I had a "spirited" discussion about that exact possibility with someone in the Twins organization.

      The summary:
      Me: "He has more value if he stays at catcher."
      Him: "Sure, but he has value otherwise."
      Me: "Well, then, I'd rather have a pitcher than another outfielder."
      Him: "Have you seen him play... like, in person?"
      Me: "No."
      Him: "That's what I thought."

      So his 30+ games of seeing him probably trumps my type of scouting.
      Funny dialogue. I think the cream of this draft is four picks, in order. Aiken, Rodon, Jackson, and Kolek. I hope one of the four drop to us and we pick that one over Gordon.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy Nygaard View Post
      I would love that. I had a "spirited" discussion about that exact possibility with someone in the Twins organization.

      The summary:
      Me: "He has more value if he stays at catcher."
      Him: "Sure, but he has value otherwise."
      Me: "Well, then, I'd rather have a pitcher than another outfielder."
      Him: "Have you seen him play... like, in person?"
      Me: "No."
      Him: "That's what I thought."

      So his 30+ games of seeing him probably trumps my type of scouting.
      This is priceless. Thanks for sharing it, Jeremy.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Great story/exchange... For me, after reading these, I'm not sure what my Top 5 would be, but I think that Rodon, Aiken and Jackson are in the top tier. Then there's the Gordon, Kolek, Nola group that could include Freeland. And then there's another step. But I could be wrong.
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Great story/exchange... For me, after reading these, I'm not sure what my Top 5 would be, but I think that Rodon, Aiken and Jackson are in the top tier. Then there's the Gordon, Kolek, Nola group that could include Freeland. And then there's another step. But I could be wrong.
      Honestly, I don't think there is a right or wrong answer this year. Last year it was a definite tier of Appel/Gray/Bryant but this year it seems no experts agree. I have seen people suggest there is a top 2 with Aiken/Rodon. Some suggest a top three with Kolek added into that group. A Top 5 with Jackson/Gordon or a top 6 with Nola added to the top group. Heck, Chris Crawford's last board had Gordon at #3.....very interesting draft this year.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmb0252 View Post
      Honestly, I don't think there is a right or wrong answer this year. Last year it was a definite tier of Appel/Gray/Bryant but this year it seems no experts agree. I have seen people suggest there is a top 2 with Aiken/Rodon. Some suggest a top three with Kolek added into that group. A Top 5 with Jackson/Gordon or a top 6 with Nola added to the top group. Heck, Chris Crawford's last board had Gordon at #3.....very interesting draft this year.
      I think the only "wrong" is taking a guy for the wrong reason. Nola for example, if we are considering him because of how quckly he will be up. I think that would be a mistake. If your scouts feel like he has the most upside at #5, that is fine. Or Gordon because we have need at SS now. Same thing, if we think he is the best on the board at #5 then take him.
    1. ALessKosherScott's Avatar
      ALessKosherScott -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      I think the only "wrong" is taking a guy for the wrong reason. Nola for example, if we are considering him because of how quckly he will be up. I think that would be a mistake. If your scouts feel like he has the most upside at #5, that is fine. Or Gordon because we have need at SS now. Same thing, if we think he is the best on the board at #5 then take him.
      I don't know about that. IMO, with this draft class it comes down to which flaws are you willing to ignore. There's a lot of talent in this draft, but there are no Strausburgs. And there may not even be a Kris Bryant. There's a risk factor to everyone at the top of the draft.

      Nola may be a risk-adverse pick, but right now there's so much risk in Meyer, May, Berrios and Stewart with their walk tendencies that you could argue you need a safe pitcher to counterbalance them. Gordon scares me if he has to move off shortstop, but at the same time there really isn't a shortstop of the future in the system right now.

      With the way this draft is shaping up, you could make an argument there are seven or eight people who make sense at 5, and it's harder than it is in normal years to tell the busts from the future all-stars this time around.
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      I think the only "wrong" is taking a guy for the wrong reason. Nola for example, if we are considering him because of how quckly he will be up. I think that would be a mistake. If your scouts feel like he has the most upside at #5, that is fine. Or Gordon because we have need at SS now. Same thing, if we think he is the best on the board at #5 then take him.
      While you and I might disagree on who we like at #5 I couldn't agree more. Twins will take BPA so we will know on Thursday who they think has the highest upside.
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