Our 2021 Prospect Profile series continues with a player that’s been part of Atlanta’s prospect system for several years now, catcher Alex Jackson.
Check out the site’s updated Top 30 list, as well as my post on the organization’s potential under-the-radar prospects for 2021. Also, catch up on our profile series if you’ve missed the latest write-ups.
- 2021 Braves Top 30 Prospect Rankings
- Potential risers and under-the-radar prospects for 2021
- Braves 2021 Prospect Profile: No. 9 Michael Harris
- Braves 2021 Prospect Profile: No. 26 Tyler Owens
- Braves 2021 Prospect Profile: No. 12 Bryce Ball
- Braves 2021 Prospect Profile: No. 8 Tucker Davidson
#24. Alex Jackson, C
- 6’2″, 215 lbs.
- 1st RD / 2014 MLB Draft (SEA)
As has been the theme throughout the entirety of this series thus far, Jackson is another Braves prospect that missed out on an opportunity to build off a career-year from 2019. With the team’s selection of college catcher Shea Langeliers, to go along with a normal amount of prospect fatigue for a guy that’s now entering his eighth professional season, the San Diego native needs a big 2021 season to have any chance to remain within the organization’s Top 30.
What has Jackson done so far?
Jackson was originally a Seattle Mariner, selected 6th overall in the 2014 draft as a high school kid with plus-hit and power potential. As a teenager, Jackson was looked at as not only an above-average catcher but also a player with the tools to also handle a corner outfield position. As a matter of fact, Jackson didn’t really start catching until he was acquired by the Braves in a November 2016 trade.
Despite his minimal versatility on defense, make no mistake, Atlanta wanted Jackson for his offense as the then-20-year-old was coming off a 2016 campaign with Single-A Clinton in which he slugged 11 home runs and 55 RBI to go along with a .243 AVG in 92 games. As a new member of Atlanta’s organization and the starting catcher for both High-A Florida and Double-A Mississippi, Jackson impressed during his first season with the Braves in 2017. Across the two levels that year (96 games combined), Jackson slashed .267/.328/.480 with 19 homers and 65 RBI, while even throwing out 21% (16 for 61) of would-be base stealers (not bad for a first-time catcher still learning the position as a pro). And to add to his breakout year, Atlanta shipped Jackson to Arizona in ’17 to play Fall Ball, where he managed a .263 AVG and 5 home runs in 20 games to go along with an even better 26% caught-stealing rate.
However, 2018 wasn’t as kind. Jackson was challenged with 64 more games in Mississippi to start the season, and despite some real strides on defense behind the plate (31% CS rate), Jackson struck out nearly 35% of the time with the bat while hitting just .200. A 35-game stint in Triple-A Gwinnett down the stretch didn’t get him going either, for Jackson only managed to bump his AVG up just four points (.204).
The 2019 season was really when Jackson caught the attention of most Braves fans. Apparently adjusting his approach to a more of an all-or-nothing style at the plate, in 85 games, Jackson belted 28 home runs and tallied 65 RBI for the Stripers, all while hitting .229 and finishing the year with a bloated 38.5% K rate. Due to injuries at the MLB level, he made his major league debut in April (going 0 for 10). Still, his power display in Gwinnett earned him another opportunity in Atlanta in late August that season. However, through 13 at-bats overall in ’19, Jackson remained hitless.
Last season the Braves catching depth chart was made up primarily of Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers, but Atlanta did give Jackson another 7 plate appearances in the big leagues. In 2020, Jackson went 2 for 7 at the plate (.286 AVG) with the major league team, and with Flowers now gone, there’s a chance the journeyman minor leaguer can be the Braves no. 2 guy behind the plate this coming season.
Expectations for Jackson this season?
At this point, now 25-years-old, Jackson probably is what he is: a solid defensive catcher with power but one who’ll never be patient enough at the plate to start in the majors. Although that’s still a rather valuable player at the catcher position.
However, what’s hurting Jackson is that there are potentially already two other catchers within the organization that could very well become much more valuable than that, in Langeliers and William Contreras. And with Langeliers expected to reach the upper minors at some point in 2021 (he played primarily in Single-Rome in 2019) and Contreras potentially ready to join the major-league club at some point in 2020, Jackson’s time to make a further impression is running out.