Slugging prospect Jackson looks to balance power with more contact
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There’s no questioning Angels shortstop prospect Jeremiah Jackson’s power.
The second-round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft set a Pioneer League record with 23 homers in 65 games in 2019 and then went deep 10 times in 51 games in 2021 at Class A Inland Empire. In three Minor League seasons, Jackson has slashed .266/.336/.556 with 40 homers, 39 doubles and 133 RBIs in 159 games.
But Jackson has also struck out 227 times in 700 plate appearances, giving him a strikeout rate of 32.4 percent. For context, it would've been the fifth-highest strikeout rate in the Majors last year. Jackson’s rate has come against low-level Minor League pitchers, so he knows he'll need to make more contact as he advances up the ladder.
"I feel like bat to ball is more beneficial than power,” Jackson said at Angels Minor League camp on Monday. “When I was in high school and growing up, I didn't swing and miss a lot. But when I got to pro ball, I was still hitting for power but my contact started going down. So this year, I feel like if I can put the ball in play more, good things are going to happen."
Jackson, ranked as the club’s No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline last season, worked hard to improve his contact skills this offseason, as he reported to Angels camp in late December to get in extra work at the plate and at shortstop. He missed 11 weeks due to a quad strain last season, but he finished the year healthy and said he had no injury issues this offseason.
He said he started to focus more on the mental side of the game this winter, as he understands the importance of it after talking to Major Leaguers during big league camp last year and during his stint in the Arizona Fall League last year.
"Just like a lot of thinking and really visualizing,” Jackson said. “Going to the Fall League and big league camp, I've learned from a lot of players. And I feel like there's always something that separates the big leaguers from the Minor Leaguers, and most of it I feel like is up here [mentally]. If I can get my head straight and everything's good, that will help me get through the season.”
Jackson, 21, believes he’s matured mentally since he was drafted out of high school in Alabama. He believes it’s been a natural process, but he really wanted to emphasize it more heading into this season.
“A lot of it for me is just playing situations over in my head,” Jackson said. “When it comes to defense, knowing where I'm going to be before it even happens. Even with hitting, it's more about the approach and picking up on the pitchers' tendencies and things like that. I'm just working to be more mentally prepared for the games. Good control of the strike zone. Picking apart pitchers a little bit more. And beat them on their weaknesses."
Jackson also must prove he can stick at shortstop going forward, as he’s also seen time at second base and third base in the Minors. Jackson has the tools to remain at shortstop and despite his immense power, he’s not too big for the position, as he’s listed at 6-foot and 165 pounds. He said he’s worked hard to polish his game at short during the offseason and is eager to show off his improved defense.
"Obviously, I'm going to play wherever the team needs me,” Jackson said. “Personally, I would love to be at short, and that's where I see myself being. But obviously if I need to move around, it's not a big deal. You can work at other positions and maybe that makes a shorter trail to the bigs. I don't mind that, but I'd like to stay at short, and that's what I'm working toward.”