By John Boyle
With the sixth pick in the Major League Baseball draft, the Mariners took the player most were expecting to, Alex Jackson out of Rancho Bernardo High School. Jackson, who is listed at 6-2, 215 pounds is a right-handed power hitter, something the Mariners (and just about every team) could use. But while Jackson played catcher in high school, the Mariners plan to move him to outfield, likely right field to take advantage of his strong arm. .
Jackson hit .400 as a senior with 11 home runs, and 47 homers in his HS career. He was rated the No. 4 overall prospect in the draft by Baseball America, and the top position player.
Jackson is committed to Oregon, but Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik seemed confident in his team’s ability to sign him.
Here are some quotes from Zduriencik and scouting director Tom McNamara:
On the decision to pick Jackson: “We just follow our board. We line ‘em up, and he was the guy at that pick, so we were pretty excited in that room.”
On what they like about him: “He’s an athletic kid, he can do a lot of different things. We like the bat, and that’s where we went.
“We like his hitability mixed with his power. He’s not just a one-dimensional hitter; we think he’s a combination of both. We’ve been scouting him for the last three years, all summer, fall and spring. We’re very happy he was there when we made that selection.”
On how quickly he could advance through the minors: “He’s a high school kid, we look at him as an advance high school player because the high school program he’s at is one of the top ones in California, and he’s gone through the circuit with all the travel teams. So we classify him as advanced player because he already has a feel for what it’s like to be on the road traveling and playing with different players and playing against different teams.”
“Everybody, all the scouts were very excited about this player.
“He’s got an outstanding arm. He could catch if we wanted to catch, he could do that. But I do think with the scenario here with a young catcher in the big leagues with us now, and with this kid’s bat potential, and the fact that he throws so well, I think it’s, let the bat do the talking for him. We’ll play him in the outfield to start with, then see how things go. He can always go back behind the plate, because he does have the ability to play there, but because we think because the bat’s going to play quicker, we think that’s a better way to get him out there. Let him swing the bat, transition to the outfield, then go from there.”
Zduriencik said they also discussed the idea of Jackson playing a corner infield spot, but like him as an outfielder.
On finding a power-hitting righty: “Yeah, you’ve noticed?
“It’s difficult, it really is, especially a right-handed bat. We’ve talked about that a lot, we’re talking about it now. It’s funny, because I remember years ago it was always left-handed bats, trying to find a really good left-handed hitter. Now it just seems like the right-handed bat is something that’s at a premium.”
On if there’s more info out there on high school prospects now than in the past: “There are a lot of opportunities for them to play in these big-profile games and tournaments. In the summer time and in the fall when the scouts are out looking at these players, they do see them against the best competition. You sit down and talk with these kids nowadays and ask, ‘who’s the best guy you played against,’ and the kid from California is talking about a kid from Texas or a kid from the northeast or a kid from Florida. So they all know each other, they’ve been exposed, and when they perform, that’s impressive to see.”
On the Mariners’ ability to sign Jackson: “I think he wants to play. Anytime you take a high school play you always have that, but when you take a kid this high—how many opportunities does any player, anywhere, ever get to be taken with a top-10 pick in a draft? How are you going to better yourself. By the time he got through Oregon, he may very well be a big leaguer. I do think his desire is to play pro ball.”
On which OF position he might play: “Because he throws so well, he’s got a well above average arm, so I think right field would be the first place you’d look for him… We’ll see. We let the pieces fall where they may, get him out there, get him playing—get him signed first—and we’re excited to watch him.”