It is not all that often when one suggests that a 27-year-old player has already reached his ceiling, but it appears that could be a possibility that the Detroit Tigers might have to consider when it comes to their center fielder, Austin Jackson.
Two years ago, Jackson hit .300 with 16 HRs and a .856 OPS. He also drove in 66 runs, scored 103 runs and led the league with 10 triples, making 2012 his best all-around season to date, even though he did not steal as many bases as he did in 2010 and 2011.
In 2013, Jackson regressed to a slash line of .272/.337/.417 with 12 HRs, 49 RBIs and 99 runs scored. He then, of course, had an abysmal postseason until then-manager Jim Leyland finally dropped him to the No. 8 spot of the lineup for the final three games of the 2013 ALCS, which seemed to wake his bat up.
Although his 2013 numbers were a pretty significant drop off from his 2012 numbers, 2014 has been even worse, as he is currently slashing just .244/.306/.354. Across the board, his numbers are the worst they have been since his sophomore season of 2011.
Based on the way that Jackson’s Spring Training and April went, the slump that he has been going through since the calendar turned to May has been nothing short of baffling. After being taken out of the leadoff spot, this was supposed to be the year where Jackson would truly break out and take to the role of a formidable run producer in the middle of the Tigers’ order. It has not happened, however.
In addition to trying him out in five other places in the lineup, manager Brad Ausmus has now been experimenting by occasionally moving him back to the leadoff spot in a desperate attempt to get him going again. It is too soon to tell whether the experiment has been a success or a failure, but it should be noted that he is batting just .214 in 28 at-bats in the leadoff spot, which hardly gives fans much hope.
Yes, Jackson is still only 27 with his prime years right in front of him. He certainly has the raw talent to eventually become a well-above average player, but in his four-plus seasons in Detroit, he has hardly been a model of consistency. He is one of those players who always seems to be really hot or really cold with not much of an in-between.
At this point, the question is whether or not he will ever find consistency, and if not, is it possible that Jackson already showed the best he has to offer during his exceptional 2012 season? Only time will tell, but it might be time for the Tigers to start considering that possibility.