Results tagged ‘ Austin Jackson ’

A-Jax cleans up on Grapefruit League

Two weeks ago, one of the Tigers’ biggest questions was whether Austin Jackson will hit in the Major Leagues. Spring Training might not provide a true answer, but so far, he’s pounding the Grapefruit League.

Nobody in the Florida half of Spring Training has as many base hits so far this spring as Jackson. Granted, he has the advantage of having more at-bats than anyone this spring, having his leadoff most of the spring for the Tigers, but he’s also batting .429. Just as impressive to many, he’s doing it while posting more walks (5) than strikeouts (4).

For someone who struck out a little more at Triple-A last year than one might like from a typical leadoff man (even though he didn’t bat leadoff at Triple-A), he’s consistently having great at-bats, whether or not they end up with him on base.

“The thing I’m most impressed with so far, knock on wood,” manager Jim Leyland said, “is he hasn’t swung at bad balls. He’s laid off some pretty tough pitches. That’s pretty impressive for a youngster. That’s a good sign for him.”

Leyland said several days ago that he felt Jackson was a very good baserunner. It’s that facet of Jackson’s game that made an impression on a lot of people Sunday thanks to two triples and an infield single. He seemed to come out from the get-go with an angle towards some aggressive baserunning, even though he said that wasn’t his motive.

The infield hit was an outstanding example of Jackson using his speed to take advantage of a mistake. A bobble from the shortstop was all the extra time he needed to beat the throw to first. Off to second he went on a wild pitch, and a Magglio Ordonez double allowed him to score easily.

The first of the two triples was the more impressive because of the way he found a different speed when he saw he had a chance. Even if he isn’t considered a speedburner, he was traveling like one around second base.

“I thought that they were going to get it to a lot faster than they did, but I think they were playing in,” Jackson said. “So when I looked up, I was kind of surprised that they hadn’t thrown it in yet, so I kind of kicked it into another gear to make sure I get here.”

Johnny Damon, who was on deck, wasn’t watching it until he heard a commotion from the crowd. Then he saw Jackson flying.

Damon knew Jackson was fast, he said, but he didn’t remember him being that fast. He compared him to Asafa Powell, the Jamaican sprinter who battled fellow countryman Usain Bolt for world titles. Jackson isn’t anywhere near as big as Powell, who’s 6-foot-3, but Damon’s point is that he has a body type for speed and now has the strength for it.

“Austin is put together pretty well,” Damon said. “He’s got more strength now, working out the past couple years to get ready for this chance. He’s just a power runner. I didn’t know what the commotion was. I was just getting ready to go hit. He was flying. He hit every bag in stride.”

Leyland has hinted to Jackson that he wants to see him show off his speed. He’s let Jackson know he’d like to see the kid try to steal a base if he sees a chance.

“That’s part of my game. That’s definitely going to be something that I’m going to have to bring to the table every day,” Jackson said. “I had to battle a little bit at first to get an infield base hit and try to leg it out. After that, I was putting good swings on balls and hit a couple balls in the gap. I had a chance to show my speed a little bit.”

Jackson won’t have a chance to show it Monday, at least not during the game. Leyland said right after Sunday’s game that he won’t play Monday against the Blue Jays. He’ll take batting practice with the team in the morning, hit the back fields to lay down 50 bunts for base hits, then he’s free to head home. Casper Wells will start in center field instead.

Once upon a time, we all thought of Wells as a fallback option if Jackson somehow wasn’t ready. The work Jackson was putting in before most position players reported to camp made that fall seem unlikely, and barring injury, it looks out of the question.

Saturday: Tigers vs. Orioles

Odd seeing the O’s in Lakeland for a game, but a good odd. Never saw them around these parts when they trained all the way down in Fort Lauderdale. In fact, I think the last time we saw O’s third base coach Juan Samuel in Lakeland, he was trying to teach center field to Alex Sanchez. That was his last year as a Tiger in 2005. Now that the O’s have moved their spring base to Sarasota, one would expect this to be a regular matchup.

You’ll notice Austin Jackson isn’t in the starting lineup, but it’s a regular day off. Tigers had him working on his bunting on the practice fields this morning with Adam Everett and Gerald Laird. This session wasn’t about sac bunting so much as bunting for hits.

“You just try to give them another weapon,” manager Jim Leyland said. “And if anything, you try to get the third baseman on top of them [defending the bunt]. It’s an offensive weapon.”

None of those three guys are starting today, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jackson enter later in the game.

TIGERS

  1. Thomas, CF
  2. Damon, LF
  3. Ordonez, RF
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Guillen, DH
  6. Kelly, 3B
  7. Avila, C
  8. Sizemore, 2B
  9. Santiago, SS

P: Justin Verlander, Brad Thomas, Ryan Perry, Jose Valverde, Daniel Schlereth, Jay Sborz

ORIOLES

  1. Felix Pie, LF
  2. Robert Andino, 2B
  3. Nolan Reimold, DH
  4. Ty Wigginton, 3B
  5. Lou Montanez, RF
  6. Brandon Snyder, 1B
  7. Jeff Salazar, CF
  8. Michel Hernandez, C
  9. Blake Davis, SS

P: Kevin Millwood, Brandon Erbe, Matt Albers, Dennis Sarfate, Alberto Castillo, Cla Meredith

Leading off at leadoff: Austin Jackson

What if the Tigers signed Johnny Damon to help out the top of their batting order, and ended up batting rookie Austin Jackson up there anyway?

It’s not as far-fetched as you might think.

Though manager Jim Leyland said Wednesday he still hasn’t written out a set lineup and still doesn’t know what he’ll do with his top two spots, he sounded a little more committed than before to the idea of batting Jackson up top.

Jackson will get the first crack at leading off in Spring Training, as Leyland hinted at before. But he also sounded a little more confident that Jackson fits there.

“I’d like Jackson to lead off, if I could,” Leyland said. “I’m really kind of looking for a two hitter. But I think Jackson — if he’s here, and you’re going to play him some — he’s probably got to lead off. Probably, as we stand right now. But I don’t know that for a fact. We’ll find out.”
Admittedly, when he said that, he wasn’t including Damon in the thought process. As Leyland put it, “I don’t ever anticipate we’re going to get somebody.”

But he sure sounded like he was coming around on Jackson as a fit up there. And he definitely sounded like finding a No. 2 hitter, as the roster stands now, is a tougher decision for him.

“I have to figure out some kind of a two-hole hitter,” Leyland said. “I don’t know how that’s going to work out, unless you change our style of play. You hate to do it, although I think the game’s getting back to it, where the smaller things are meaning more again.

“Maybe you move some runners early on or something with the second hitter. Maybe you don’t just slug it like you do sometimes. Polanco was so good because he could drag a bunt or hit in the hole or hit-and-run or hit a home run. He was a really professional hitter.”

Maybe that’s something rookie Scott Sizemore can do. Maybe it’s something Adam Everett could do. Or maybe, if Johnny Damon does come to Detroit, it’s something he does.

Don’t read Leyland’s comments on the game changing, though, and figure that he’s angling towards it.

“I’m not saying I’m going to do that,” Leyland said. “I don’t want to do that.”

One thing for certain is that both Jackson and Sizemore, as long as they’re healthy, are going to get a lot of playing time this spring. It isn’t just about getting them acclimated to the big leagues as much as you can in Spring Training. It’s about Leyland and the coaching staff seeing them enough to judge them.

“I’ve never been a big Spring Training judge,” Leyland said, “but you have to do what you have to do.”

Tigers all over the place in prospect rankings

So as you might have seen on the site or on MLB Network last night, MLB.com came out with its preseason Top 50 prospect list. The Tigers came in with two kids on the list: Austin Jackson was the top Tiger at 38th, but first-round draft pick Jacob Turner isn’t far behind at 42.

Today, ESPN.com’s Keith Law came out with his top 100 prospects list. Jackson and Turner are on that list, too, but neither cracked the Top 50. Casey Crosby, however, did. He’s at 45, with Jackson at 70 and Turner at 80. Interestingly, Law is subdued on his projections for Jackson, whom he sees as a true center field with a league-average bat. Scott Sizemore barely missed the top 100, Law writes, and probably would’ve made the cut had his Arizona Fall League not ended early with a broken ankle. Law projects him as a “solid-average regular for several years.”

Not to be overlooked (thanks to Ed Price for pointing it out) is the prospects list from AOL Fanhouse, which has five (count ‘em, five) Tigers in the Top 100. Jackson is 25th on that list by Frankie Piliere, who says Jackson has “grown by leaps and bounds since he was drafted.” The next-highest Tiger is Andy Oliver, who didn’t make the other two lists but hits 47th here. Another missing name from the other two rankings, Daniel Schlereth, is 78th, followed by Crosby at 82 and Turner at 90.

My point isn’t to argue that any one list is better than another; I just find the varying opinions fascinating. I’m entering my ninth year on this beat, and I can’t remember such varying national opinions on Tigers prospects. The one thing all these lists have in common is that they show progress in Detroit’s farm system. They’re drafting and developing more high-level talent rather than just one or two really good pitchers, and in the case of Jackson and Schlereth, they’re trading for them too.

Jackson likely to get first shot at leadoff

Jim Leyland says he doesn’t have a clue who’s going to bat leadoff for the Tigers when the season opens. But he has an idea who will probably leadoff for them when the Spring Training schedule opens in a little over five weeks.

“I assume starting off that Jackson’s going to probably lead off in Spring Training to see what he looks like,” Leyland said Saturday at TigerFest. “I’m not really sure who’s going to hit second just yet. We’ll take a look at it.”

Leyland raised the possibility that Jackson and fellow rookie Scott Sizemore could bat first and second, but Leyland also wondered aloud whether he’d want two rookies batting immediately ahead of Miguel Cabrera in the lineup.

“There’s one thing I know about Jackson: I know he’s a Major League center fielder,” Leyland said. “The question with him is how soon does he progress at the plate to become a good Major League hitter. There’s no question, I’m real comfortable that he’s going to be a very good center fielder. I’m not worried about that. His defense is going to be fine. That’s not even a question for me.

“But you can’t expect him to just come in and tear it up offensively. It’s tough. It takes time. So you have to break him in, nurse him and not throw him to the wolves. But if you’re going to play every day, you’re going to face some good Major League pitching.”

Leyland said he’ll be looking at plate discipline from Jackson, both in terms of not chasing bad pitches and his ability to take a walk. But his remarks reinforce the idea that Jackson is the closest the Tigers have to a natural leadoff man in their lineup.

“I don’t know who’s going to be the leadoff guy Opening Day. I would like it to be him,” Leyland said. “But that doesn’t mean I know who it’s going to be.”

Leyland talked a lot about the protoypical leadoff guy, much like Dombrowski did as you can see below. Leyland suggested he’s never really had that prototypical leadoff man in his managerial career, and he isn’t calling Jackson one of those guys. His point was that they’ve made it work over the years.

Granderson/Jackson trade is official

It's a done deal: the Tigers have sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees and Edwin Jackson to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Max Scherzer, Daniel Schlereth, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke. The three GMs are scheduled to have a news conference at 4:30 pm. Look for that on MLB.com if you're not by a TV.

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