In the BP-esque All-Star game snubs op-ed’s, I’ve selected three – yes, three and not two like normal – minor league All-Stars who actually deserved that title. I couldn’t sleep at night knowing that I lied to commenter GopherDay when he asked if I would do a write up on Brett Jackson to which I replied, “I’d do a write up of him, but I did a Cubs player recently. I try to keep the StU’s spread around the league.” And that is me quoting myself. I reviewed a Braves prospect on June 9th, and a Cubs Prospect on May 19th. Doing some quick and complicated math, I discovered that I better go beyond the call of duty – a game I played 12 hours this weekend – and come up with another player besides Julio Teheran and the minor league homer run leader, Jerry Sands. I tip my hat to GopherDay and bow in humility to the rest of my column’s readers who keep me in check every week and say, thank you.
I’m not sure why I missed Teheran this offseason when I wrote the Atlanta Braves Minor League Review, but he should have been mentioned. He was signed at the tender age of 16, and didn’t pitch much in his first pro season (15 innings) at age 17. Much of this was because of shoulder tendinitis. Not sure how a 17 year old pitcher has tendinitis, but I suspect it isn’t worth fretting over yet. He throws a 90 to 96 mph fastball with slight sink, a erratic and at times sharp mid-70’s curveball, and an above-average to plus-changeup. Depending on your source, his repertoire is described with different adjectives, but they all say his weeping willow branched frame produces an amazing heater with great command, mature mound presence, is an aggressive pitcher, and has great poise, which has been called cockiness by others. Some scouts worry about his “herky-jerky” mechanics caused by a, “long arm rotation on the back of his delivery,” and question his long term durability. Keith Law has Teheran ranked as the 63rd overall prospects in the minors and expects Teheran to be in the top quarter next year. MLB’s official website has Teheran as the 34th overall prospect. His potential – front-line starter. How has Teheran fared this year?
2010 Stats (A and A+): 10.5 K/9 | 2.2 BB/9 | 88 2/3 IP | 2.13 ERA | 2.74 FIP | 1.02 WHIP | .5 Hr/9 | 6.9 H/9 | .291 BABIP | 40 GB% | 13.6 LD% | 41.7 FB% | 5.1 Hr/FB%
Career:9.1 K/9 | 2.1 BB/9 | 185 IP | 3.16 ERA | 3.06 FIP | 1.12 WHIP | .5 Hr/9 | 8 H/9 | .314 BABIP | 46.2 GB% | 13.3 LD% | 33.6 GB% | 5.9 Hr/FB%
He pitched well enough in 49 1/3 innings at Class High-A (Carolina League) to warrant an All-Star game selection. In the South Atlantic League, he was dominating everyone, but he was also throwing in an extreme hitters’ park at Rome. With a 7.4 strikeout per nine-innings in 2009, John Sickels questioned past hand and shoulder injuries and wondered if Teheran was going to rebound. I would say quite firmly that he has rebounded! Although his ground ball rates have fallen this year from his career trend and, depending on your particular philosophy, this is either a bad thing or means nothing. However, it’s important to note that of Teheran’s 41.7 fly ball percent, 16.9 percent of those fly balls are infield flies, which also helps explain his relatively low home runs per fly ball. Don’t forget he is currently sporting a 10.5 K/9 with sparkling command, both this year (2.2 BB/9) and for his career (2.1 BB/9).
It’s Teheran that forced my hand to write about three prospects today. I didn’t want to be late to the Braves next top pitching prospect, considering I started writing this weekly article when Tommy Hanson was getting pimped by all the major fantasy websites. Pretty sure you now know what makes Teheran so special, and if you’re dynasty leagues with minor league roster space, go grab Teheran NOW! Like as of yesterday. You can thank me later.
Here is a nobody that is killing minor league pitching this year. Don’t get too excite yet. Keith Law, in one of his weekly chats, had nothing positive to say. And I quote, “He’s in low-A. Way too old for his stats to have any meaning whatsoever.” This is true, at age 22 and drafted from college, where he set his school’s home run record (61), career walks (132), and career slugging percentage (.752). He probably should have been placed at High-A Inland Empire. An outfielder by trade and a first basemen by force, Sands has fought the Law and Sands won. It’s pretty clear that his best tool is power, and, prior to this year, he hit 29 homers in 119 pro games (now 52 homers in 198 games). He has the ability to hit the ball to all parts of the field, has good patience, better than average speed for a first baseman and a strong arm (Baseball America says that his arm is worthy of being slotted in right field). John Sickels, more pessimistic than Baseball America, noted, “strikeout spike at Class-A” was of concern, and “scouts have concerns over his swing being too long.” Which is straight legit. (Remember this tidbit for Brett Jackson.) Sands’ year so far this year:
2010 Stats (A and AA):.326/.421/.652 | 282 AB | 43 XBH | 23 Hr | .326 ISO | 14/2 SB/CS | 71:43 K:BB | .365 BABIP | 37.6 GB% | 21.6 LD% | 40.4 FB%
Career Stats: .296/.397/.594 | 695 AB | 96 XBH | 52 Hr | 20/3 SB/CS | 174:109 K:BB | .326 BABIP | 40.8 GB% | 16 LD% | 43 FB%
Oh, did I mention he was the Midwest (Class Low-A) All-Star game MVP and Player of the Week in the Southern League (Double-A) from 6-21 to 6-27-2010? After slugging 18 homers in the Midwest League (in a park that increases home runs but limits other extra base hits), he was promoted to Double-A. Guess what? He’s continued to hit the ball out of the park with five home runs in 39 at-bats in a pitchers’ park. His success has lead to a recent column about him being called a bargain draftee (25th round). I’d sure say so.
Although his BABIP is high, his career rate is more sustainable. His plate patience is clearly evident and his strikeout rate is similar to other prospects such as Mike Stanton and Pedro Alvarez. Going forward, I’d treat him as a tier two prospect that I like and will love if he continues to bash at Double-A. Remember, even Brennan Boesch was ranked as the Detroit Tigers number 25th ranked prospect this year. They both had similar minor league trends (power and strikeouts), but Sands takes more time at the plate (yes, that was for you video game lovers out there) and has the speed to get the 10 to 15 steals a season. His most optimistic upside would be 25 to 30 homers a season with a .260 to .275 average and 10 to 15 steals.
Brett Jackson | OF-CF | Chicago Cubs | DOB: 8-2-1988 | 6’2” | 210 lbs | B/T: L/R | 2009 1st rd, #31 from College | CHC #2 ranked prospect according to Baseball America (2010) | MiLB Player Page
Brett Jackson fell in the draft because of concerns over his signability; he signed early and got a half season of play in spite of all the naysayers. Blessed with all five tools every scout is looking for, and at a tough position – center field – he instantly became the Cubs best athlete within the farm system. He has a quick bat with natural loft to provide him with above-average power. He has plus-speed, a good arm, but strikeouts a lot. Those five tools are still relatively raw and aren’t quite skills. Projects to make the majors at the end of the 2011 season if the Cubs don’t rush him to the majors as they have with every other stud center field prospect in recent years. Here’s how Jackson has performed this year:
2010 Stats (A+ and AA): .322/.428/.534 | 292 AB | 38 XBH | 8 Hr | .212 ISO | 15/7 SB/CS | 79:48 K:BB | .402 BABIP | 43.5 GB% | 24.7 LD% | 31.4 FB%
Career Stats: .320/.424/.515 | 503 AB | 55 XBH | 16 Hr | .195 ISO | 28/9 SB/CS | 126:79 K:BB | .402 BABIP | 44.9 GB% | 21.1 LD% | 33.5 FB%
Also a Carolina League All-Star and recent Player of the Week (6-21 to 6-27) at the Florida State League, Jackson has played well during his short pro career. In roughly a whole season worth of at-bats, he has done a lot to get excited about. His strikeout-to-walk ratio isn’t horrid, and he has shown moderate power and good speed on the bases. Although scouts rave about his naturally lofted swing, he doesn’t hit a lot of fly balls, at least not yet. This is offset by a high line drive percentage, which shows he has made a lot of quality contact. Within the last two weeks, Jackson was promoted to Double-A (36 plate appearances at the time of writing) and has played well.
All right, remember that quote about Sands that I told you to remember? Forgot it? Ok, here it is again, “’strikeout spike at Class-A’ was of concern, and ‘scouts have concerns over his swing being too long.’” The first one was John Sickels and Baseball America was the second quote. Here is what Sickels says about Jackson, “Plate-discipline is going to be an issue; he swings and misses an awful lot, and doesn’t work counts well.” And Baseball America, “Jackson will accrue his share of strikeouts but can keep them under control if he doesn’t get too aggressive.” [snark comment] Any strikeout hitter that doesn’t get too aggressive can keep his strikeouts under control. PSH! [/snark comment] Thing is, Sands and Jackson have similar strikeout-to-walk ratios, but with Jackson displaying more gap power than over-the-fence power. Another knock on Jackson is that his season and career numbers are boosted by an extremely high BABIP. Guess it helps to have pedigree and sexy five tool allure.
All in all, I see a 20 homer, 30 steals, and a .270 to .280 average in his fantasy future. I may sound down, but I think it’s just a Cubs thing as I was down on Josh Vitters, but I like Jackson more than it may sound. Just keep expectations in check. Also, his ETA is right on track if you believe Baseball America (end 2011).