My first taste of amateur talent came earlier in the month with the New Balance Area Code Games in Long Beach. Heading into the week, I heard that Jacob Gatewood and Alex Jackson were the 1A and 1B as the top high school talents. By week’s end, Jackson separated himself from Gatewood and the other positional players, (perhaps by default) solidifying himself as the (early) top high school talent in the country.
Listed at 6’2” and 215 pounds, Jackson is already built like a man. He displayed solid above-average power in batting practice, driving several balls very well the other way. 55 or 60 potential power isn’t out of the question. I wouldn’t be comfortable going any higher than that. The swing will translate well into the game, too, as well as the raw power.
But Jackson’s calling card isn’t his power, it’s his pure hitting tool. He has a chance to become a 60 hitter (.280s batting average), given his above-average bat speed, a smooth swing that allows for plate coverage, and the strong hands for bat control. Also, there’s an advanced sense of the strike zone. It’s not just a patient approach, but a sense of what is and isn’t a strike.
On defense, Jackson could be a catcher or right fielder. But I don’t think he’ll be better than average at either position. Starting with catcher, I didn’t see the agility behind the plate for me to believe he could be an average or better defender. The strong hands are evident, though, as is a plus arm that can profile well in right field. Most people I’ve talked to think he’ll be in right, but there are some believers that he could stay behind the plate. It only takes one team to see the dream. (of course, it depends where they pick in the draft, but you get the point).
Jackson is entering his senior year at Rancho Bernardo High in San Diego, California — also known as a 70 minute drive from my house — and is currently committed to play baseball at the University of Oregon. One would have to think there’s almost no chance he ever plays there, though, as you’d expect with any player that could realistically be taken in the No. 5 to No. 15 overall range.