Jackson breaks out with vintage effort in AFL

October 24th, 2021

GLENDALE, Ariz. --  got off to a slow start in the Arizona Fall League, but Saturday night’s performance may be a sign of things to come as he continues to adjust to the league.

The Angels’ No. 5 prospect hit his first homer of the fall and drove in four runs as part of a 2-for-4 night.

“Just got to slow it down, slow some things down, slow the game down some,” Jackson said of his approach after Glendale’s 9-5 loss to Mesa. “Really looking at getting a pitch to hit, can’t just go in there swinging. Things are starting to click a little bit. I feel a little more confident at the plate, so hopefully I keep it going.”

Jackson’s confidence at the plate was apparent early. The 2018 second-round pick was hitting .091 (2-for-22 through seven games entering the night), but broke the skid with a run-scoring single in the second.

In the fourth, Jackson -- who set the Pioneer League single-season home run record with 23 (65 games) in 2019 -- put his power on display, driving an 0-2 pitch to the opposite field for a three-run homer.

“Really just being simple … seeing the pitches and trying to put bat on ball,” Jackson said. “These guys are throwing hard enough now where all you got to do is touch it and it’ll go where you want it to.”

Jackson went hitless in his final two trips to the plate, but has driven in seven runs through eight games and appears to be adjusting to the advanced competition after spending the bulk of his season with Low-A Inland Empire.

The 21-year-old hit .277 with 10 homers and 50 RBIs in 2021, but only played in 51 games as a quad strain kept him out the majority of the season.

When healthy, Jackson has shown an impressive skillset, but he still needs reps and is in Arizona making up for lost time.

“Obviously, not playing for the whole season didn’t help me, but at the same time you’ve got to come out here and be ready to compete,” Jackson said. “I think tonight I just took a stride in the right direction.”

In addition to facing more advanced pitching than he’s used to, Jackson is also improving his versatility on the diamond.

Primarily a middle infielder, Jackson got the start at third base, a position he’s played a few times this fall.

“I like third,” Jackson said. “I played third growing up, I played all around. I feel like if you’re a shortstop, you can and should be able to play other positions as well. It’s just another aspect to my game that I’m just trying to perfect to have more opportunities.”

While Jackson impressed for Glendale,  put on an offensive show for Mesa. After going 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs on Friday, Velazquez reached in each of his first three plate appearances and finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI.

The Cubs No. 29 prospect doubled and scored in the second, drew a walk in the third and singled in the fourth, bringing his average up to .370 through seven games.