Braves catching prospect Jackson shines in fall league

Atlanta Braves Alex Jackson  hits during a minor league spring training game in March.
Atlanta Braves Alex Jackson  hits during a minor league spring training game in March.

Credit: Mike Janes

Credit: Mike Janes

After getting his first look at catching prospect Alex Jackson on a back field during spring training in March, former Braves great Chipper Jones was impressed and said the kid had “light-tower power.”

Seven months later, Jackson continues to make a late-November trade with the Mariners look like a potentially one-sided one for the Braves, who gave up two modest pitching prospects and came away with a power-hitting prospect who's reminding people why he was the sixth overall pick of the 2014 draft.

Jackson went 4-for-5 with two doubles, a homer and two RBIs for the Peoria Javelinas in a 6-4 win Wednesday against Surprise in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League. It was the second homer in 21 at-bats for Jackson, who’s hit .381 with only three strikeouts and has a .762 slugging percentage and 1.197 OPS in five games.

In his first season in the Braves organization in 2017, he hit a combined .267 with an .808 OPS and career-bests in doubles (21), home runs (19) and RBIs (65) over 96 games (402 plate appearances) between high Single-A Florida and Double-A Mississippi. Jackson made 56 starts at catcher and 39 at designated hitter.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Californian, who’ll turn 22 on Christmas, is tied for the Peoria team lead in homers with two others, each of whom has played more games than Jackson. He’s serving as primary catcher for the Javelinas, who have eight Braves prospects on their roster including four pitchers and four position players.

Top Braves prospect Ronald Acuna, the outfield phenom who could compete for a spot on the Braves’ opening-day roster, is 6-for-21 (.286) with no extra-base hits, four walks and a .423 OBP in six games for Peoria, while third-base prospect Austin Riley is 3-for-12 with a homer, four RBIs and an .808 OPS in three games for the Javelinas.

Braves rookie left-hander Max Fried was tied for the Arizona Fall League lead with 11 strikeouts in eight scoreless innings while allowing just four hits and two walks for an 0.75 WHIP through two starts. Braves prospect Touki Toussaint had eight strikeouts with two walks and no hits allowed in four scoreless innings over two appearances.

The Braves made the trade for Jackson fully intending to shift him back to catcher, which they did at spring training. It’s the position he played in high school when he was considered the top prep power hitter in the draft, and it didn’t take long for Jackson to get comfortable behind the plate while rebuilding his prospect status.

The Mariners shifted Jackson to outfield at the beginning of his minor league career in hopes of getting his bat to the big leagues sooner. That switch didn’t work out and after three unproductive seasons in their system – all at the rookie-league and Single-A levels -- the Mariners were willing to part with the still-young former first-round pick in exchange for Braves pitching prospects Rob Whalen and Max Povse.

Whalen was 0-7 with a 6.58 ERA in 10 starts for the Mariners’ Triple-A Tacoma affiliate and had a 6.14 ERA in two games (one start) for the major league Mariners. Povse was 4-6 with a 5.22 ERA in 22 games (13 starts) for the Mariners’ Double-A and Triple-A teams and had a 7.36 ERA in three relief appearances in his first major league stint.