One common conversation lately among fans of the Dodgers has revolved around which players in the minor leagues are closest to being ready for the majors. So far, we’ve been able to see a lot of this speculation tested out, as the Los Angeles roster has been changing almost weekly with new faces.
Jackson, who turned 25 just last month, is interesting in the sense that he’s another converted position player, having excelled in the outfield at the University of Utah. He was a blue chipper in high school and was selected by the Rangers in the 32nd round of the 2014 MLB draft, but he ultimately opted for college. He dabbled as a reliver his sophomore year as a Ute, but he couldn’t find a way to trim his ERA below 6.00 in almost a dozen appearances.
As it turned out, Jackson underwent UCL surgery during his 2017 campaign at Utah, but the Dodgers still saw enough talent in the Arizona native to snag him in the 17th round of the draft that year, fully intending on developing him as a pitcher.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Jackson eventually made his professional debut for Great Lakes in 2018, which at the time was the organization’s Low-A affiliate. In 2019, he went 7-2 with a 3.06 ERA (39 ER/114.2 IP) and a 1.28 WHIP in 25 starts between Great Lakes and High-A Rancho Cucamonga. Jackson’s inclusion in last year’s 60-man player pool might reflect how much the team values him. He was added to the club’s 40-man roster last November to protect him from Rule 5 selection.
During 2021 Cactus League play, he made three appearances, all in relief.
Jackson owns a 12-8 record with a 3.32 ERA (80 ER/217.0 IP) and 261 strikeouts in 51 career minor league games, 49 of which were starts. So far this year for Double-A Tulsa, he has posted a 2-1 record with a 2.62 ERA, a .180 BAA, and an impressive 0.90 WHIP in eight games, seven which were starts. He has struck out 44 batters over 34-1/3 innings of work and has surrendered only nine walks, a problem he seems to be improving upon significantly. In 2018, he allowed 45 walks over an even 68 innings.
Jackson is currently ranked No. 28 on MLB Pipeline‘s Top 30 prospect list for the Dodgers.
According to MLB Pipeline, “Jackson is extremely athletic and possesses a quick arm that delivers 92-96 mph fastballs that reach 98 and feature late finish. His 78-82 mph curveball shows some signs of effectiveness, and he’s also working on a mid-80s slider/cutter.”
Because of his late transition to pitching, Jackson’s secondary stuff is still raw. For this reason, some scouts feel that he may have a higher ceiling as a reliver, especially if the Dodgers decide to start his MLB clock sooner rather than later.
In his last start against Arkansas on June 15, Jackson threw 71 pitches over five full innings, allowing just one earned run on three hits and a walk. He struck out nine.