Jackson deal could be a major Braves steal

Atlanta's No. 23 prospect has thrived with Fire Frogs

April 15th, 2017

It's too early to draw any conclusions from the Braves' gamble on former Mariners first-rounder , but the early returns are certainly positive.

Jackson, Atlanta's No. 23 prospect, went 2-for-3 and connected on his third home run in eight games for Class A Advanced Florida on Thursday night. He then went 1-for-4 on Friday to extended his hitting streak to eight games, and he's now batting .314 with at least one RBI in six of his past eight contests.

Jackson's performance during the first week-plus of the Minor League season has been difficult to overlook for reasons other than it's come in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, in his first year at the Class A Advanced level.

Scouts regarded Jackson as the best offensive prospect in the 2014 Draft, pegging him as potential plus hitter with plus power and at least an average chance to stick at catcher long term.

The Mariners, targeting right-handed power potential, selected the Rancho Bernardo (Calif.) High School product with the sixth overall pick that June, and they immediately moved him to the outfield, believing that the position change would enable Jackson's bat to flourish and expedite his overall development.

That never happened. Instead, Jackson did not advance beyond the Class A level over parts of three disappointing seasons in Seattle's system. And after he did not appear to make strides in 2016 under new general manager Jerry Dipoto's front-office regime, Jackson was dealt to the Braves for right-handers and in November.

Atlanta, meanwhile, was happy to take a chance on Jackson, who had ranked as the Mariners' No. 1 prospect heading into the 2015 and '16 seasons, respectively. The Braves acquired the 21-year-old not just for his untapped potential at the plate, but also for what he might do behind it following a return to his original position.

"After we traded for Alex, Jeff Datz, our catching coordinator who lives in Sacramento, went down to San Diego and worked out with Alex every week for a month at his high school, doing drills and getting him into the catching mode and mindset," Braves director of player development Dave Trembley told MLBPipeline.com during Spring Training. "He could really be a diamond in the rough for us in the catching department, and he's all for it."

Not wanting to overload Jackson on the defensive side, the Braves laid out a plan to maximize Jackson's at-bats and reps behind the plate during the regular season.

"I think we'd be happy if we could get 65-70 games from him behind the plate, and have him DH when he's not catching to get him 450-475 at-bats," Trembley said. "He has a lot of thunder in that bat and very good power potential."

So far, Jackson has appeared in four of nine games behind the plate for the Fire Frogs. He's yet to throw out a basestealer in 11 chances -- although he picked off a runner on Friday -- and he has committed one error and one passed ball.