Outfielder Brett Jackson was once the best prospect in the minor league system for the Chicago Cubs. After his 2011 season where Jackson had an OPS of .869 between Double-A and Triple-A, Baseball America ranked him as the 32nd best prospect in all of baseball.
His combination of plate discipline, power, speed and athleticism was impressive enough that many penciled Jackson in as the CF of the future for the Cubs. Unfortunately, Jackson has never been able to get over his biggest flaw as a baseball player — strikeouts.
For obvious reasons, it is never good for a hitter to strikeout a lot. That being said, if he is still a productive player, you can live with the strikeouts. Jackson has always had issues swinging and missing, but the production was still there in the minors. He was always good enough where you were concerned about the strikeouts, but you still liked the player.
Prominently featured on a lot of prospect lists, Jackson started the 2012 season at Triple-A Iowa. Many around the organization thought that Jackson would do some fine tuning at Triple-A and be in the majors quickly. Jackson had an impressive .817 OPS with 15 home runs and 27 stolen bases at Triple-A in 2012, but the strikeouts were worse than ever before. In 106 games, Jackson struck out 158 times. Unless you are going to be a 40+ home run hitter at the big league level, that is simply not going to work.
Despite his swing and miss struggles, Jackson was putting up nice numbers, and the Cubs wanted to see how he would do at the big league level, so they called him up for the last two months of the season. The bottom fell out as Jackson struck out 59 times in 120 big league at bats. On top of that, his OPS was a pitiful .644 and he was 0-for-3 in stolen base attempts. Jackson was simply over-matched by big league pitching.
Things did not get any better for Jackson in 2013 as he struck out 121 times in 324 at-bats between Triple-A, Double-A and Rookie Ball. He hit .210/.296/.330 with an OPS of .626. Unless he turns things around this season, Jackson will surely be labeled as a bust.
With the emergence of prospects like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Albert Almora, the Cubs now have one of the most impressive minor league systems in baseball. Jackson’s inclusion on top prospect lists are nothing more than a memory, and unless he turns things around quickly, his baseball career could be heading down that path as well. There have been plenty of whispers that the Cubs’ front office led by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer has given Jackson one last chance to turn things around or the organization will move on.
Jackson still has the tools that made him such a great player he simply needs to cut down on his strikeouts. If he somehow figures that out I see no reason why he could not turn things around quickly. It was not that long ago when everyone was touting him as the future of the organization; you just never know, but time is running out.