With Brian McCann and Tyler Flowers as the two backstops in Atlanta, the Braves know they need to find their catcher of the future relatively quickly. That’s a primary reason as to why they took one with the 9th overall pick in June’s MLB draft. Shea Langeliers is a college catcher out of Baylor who projects to be a player that can rise through the ranks of the minors rather quickly. Atlanta also has William Contreras already in their organization – who is a top 100 prospect and the brother to Cubs All-Star Willson Contreras. Those are the two trendy names mentioned when talking about the future of the catcher position in Atlanta, but Alex Jackson is beginning to build some steam and should no longer be slept on.
The Braves acquired Jackson in a low-risk, high-reward move that sent Rob Whalen and Max Povse to the Mariners. Jackson was the 6th overall pick out of high school in the 2014 draft. At the time, Seattle had moved him to the outfield, and his bat was not producing. The Braves took a chance on him, hoping he could become a power-hitting catcher – a rarity in baseball these days.
It hasn’t always been pretty for Jackson as a member of the Braves. He hit a combined .201 between AA and AAA in 2018 with only eight home runs. But the now 23-year-old has bounced back in a significant way for the Stripers this year, particularly in the power department.
In just 63 games (yes, 63 games), Jackson has an insane 22 home runs. He’s a high strikeout player that is never going to hit for average in the bigs, but he will take his walks and is sporting a .331 OBP in Gwinnett this season. His power alone for a catcher makes him a valuable commodity, and he’s next in line for the big leagues as things stand now.
William Contreras may be the 6th ranked prospect in the organization, according to MLB.com., but he’s stumbled upon his promotion to AA Mississippi. In 31 games, Contreras is hitting .221 with only two extra-base hits and eight RBIs. The Braves like the way he manages a staff and believe he can be the catcher of the future, but he’s a long ways away from that happening.
Shea Langeliers recently began his professional career in Rome. He’s a 70-grade defensive catcher, which is why the Braves were attracted to him in the first round. The potential with the bat is there, but that likely will never be his forté. In 23 games for the Braves in low-A ball, Langeliers is batting .211 with a homer and seven doubles. The Braves believe he can be a quick riser through the system, but he’s still well behind Alex Jackson in his development.
Jackson has become a prospect that should be respected in the system. There is a good chance either Tyler Flowers or Brian McCann do not return next year; which leaves an open spot for Jackson to serve in a platoon role. It’s time for him to be looked at as a legitimate potential option as a backstop in Atlanta.