TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jeremiah Jackson was the Angels’ second-round pick in the 2018 Draft out of the Alabama high school ranks. The organization's No. 4 prospect, Jackson had a strong pro debut, mostly in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2018, then tied a single-season Pioneer League record with 23 homers
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jeremiah Jackson was the Angels’ second-round pick in the 2018 Draft out of the Alabama high school ranks. The organization's No. 4 prospect, Jackson had a strong pro debut, mostly in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2018, then tied a single-season Pioneer League record with 23 homers in just 65 games in 2019. We caught up with the infielder shortly before Spring Training was suspended.
MLB.com: Last year, you were hoping to make a full-season team out of Spring Training, and that maybe didn’t go the way you wanted it to, but a lot of good things happened for you in 2019. What was your mindset entering this year?
Jeremiah Jackson: Nothing really changes. I just go out there day by day and work hard, try to get better. I always like to leave the field knowing I got better at something, whether it’s hitting, fielding, throwing, baserunning, whatever. I just worry about that day and do the best I can to attack and dominate that day.
MLB.com: Do you feel that you’re in a different place in terms of finding what works for you offensively and building off that as opposed to when you first entered pro ball or last spring when you were still trying to figure that out?
Jackson: Extended spring training was more me trying to find out what I need to do to put myself in the best position to produce and succeed. I would say going into this year, I have more of an understanding of me as a hitter, of what I need to get done before games or in practice to be the best I can be. A lot’s changed since high school or the Draft to my first season to now when it comes to knowing me and figuring myself out as a player and knowing what I need to prepare.
MLB.com: What are some of the things that you have figured out? Obviously, the power output jumped in 2019, especially in the second half of the season. Even mechanically, what did you discover worked for you?
Jackson: It was more approach than anything, paying attention to the pitcher, knowing what I’d seen in the past from certain teams, locking in on one zone, being more selective, taking walks. That’s a big thing, something I didn’t do that well last year that I’m looking to improve on. Take the walks, be patient. If they don’t throw to me, they don’t throw to me. Don’t go outside my zone and don’t chase.
• Here's a look at the Angels' farm entering 2020
MLB.com: Was that the biggest culprit with your strikeout rate, that you’d chase those pitches out of the zone too much?
Jackson: I think last year, I was anxious a lot. I just wanted to hit. My planning was off, or my approach wasn’t where I needed it to be. I didn’t lock in sometimes. A lot had to do with being really jumpy and anxious to hit.
MLB.com: I read that you had set a goal to hit 10 homers last year. You more than doubled that. Was there any point last year where you thought, “This is actually more than I was expecting.”
Jackson: I did have a goal for 10 and I exceeded that, I was like “I’m going to keep pushing.” Home runs are one of those things you can’t try to do. You can’t go out there trying to hit a home run. You have to go up there, make good decisions, look for pitches, stay in the zone and hit something hard. Then if it goes, it goes. But even when I was a kid growing up, I could always hit home runs. I always hit the ball hard. It wasn’t as much of a surprise to me as much as it was an accomplishment. OK, now this year I can set my sights a little bit higher. I always tell myself to aim high and that way if you fail a little bit, you’re still in a good position. I always knew I had some pop and some bat speed, so it wasn’t a surprise, really.
• Angels Top 30 Prospects list
MLB.com: You tied the single-season home run record. How many games did you have after that to try and break it and how was it hard not to just swing out of your shoes?
Jackson: I think I tied the record with three or four games left, something like that. Those last few games, I’m sure there’s video [you can find]. I was kind of trying. Like I said earlier, you can’t go out there trying. You have to just let it happen. A lot of the home runs I hit, I wasn’t going up there thinking “home run.” It was get a good pitch, see it well and hit it hard. It did what it did. But those last few games, I was hoping to get a nice little fastball belt high to drive somewhere.
MLB.com: Let’s talk a little about the work you’ve done defensively. You’ve seen time on both sides of second base and it sounds like that’s going to continue. Where do you think you are in terms of your defensive development?
Jackson: I pride myself on my defense just as much as my hitting. I’m still figuring some things out defensively. I have great coaches over here helping me, doing drills and things like that. Last year, a little bit more than midpoint, I really got comfortable and really felt good with my defense and was really happy with it. I improved a lot with pre-pitch, first step, getting the ball out quick, making good throws. My defense has come a long way and it’s continuing to improve every time.
MLB.com: Do you like moving back and forth, or does that make it more difficult?
Jackson: I like playing back and forth because it helps. There are things I do at shortstop that help me at second. There are things I do at second that can help me at short. It balances out. I’m fine with doing both. Shortstop has always been my primary position, so I’m going to continue working hard to become an everyday shortstop, but it’s always good to be able to do some other things, too.
MLB.com: Andrelton Simmons came on a rehab assignment to play with you. What was that like, being able to pick his brain? How did it impact you?
Jackson: It’s really good to have a big leaguer in the locker room, whether it’s rehab or me going up in a big league game. It’s really good to be around it to see how they carry themselves, how they go about their business. I talked to Simmons about what he does to make himself confident, what he does to allow himself to make the routine plays and also make the really difficult plays, and make them look easy. It was really easy to talk to him. He gave me a lot of information. We did drills together, we took ground balls together. Just watching him go about his drills, whether it was defense or offense, it’s always good to see that and look for certain things they do differently that I can change, or I can start doing that could potentially help me be where I want to be.
MLB.com: One of the things that really stands out about this farm system is how many elite-level athletes there are. Who would you say is the best athlete? But you can’t pick yourself?
Jackson: We have so many athletes here. I don’t even know who’d be the best. Everywhere you look, every team we have athletes. Everywhere. That’s a tough question. We have a bunch of really, really, really good athletes. If we would go out and play basketball or football, we’d probably beat any other organization.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.