When he makes contact Brett Jackson can do a whole lot of good things.
He has plenty of power, as evidenced by his 11 home runs, .492 slugging percentage and .239 isolated power. And he has plenty of speed, as evidenced by his 14 steals in 18 attempts and his nine triples. He plays a solid center field as well, which is why he's been one of the Cubs top prospects ever since they drafted him in the first round in 2009.
But there's a very good reason why Jackson is not yet playing in Chicago. It all comes down to contact. While Jackson can do a whole lot of good things when he puts the bat on the ball, he hasn't been hearing the crack of the bat nearly enough this year.
The 23-year-old struck out three more times on Tuesday night as part of a 1-for-5 day with Triple-A Iowa. That gives Jackson 110 strikeouts in 286 at-bats this year. Or to put it in other terms, he's striking out in 38.6 percent of all his at-bats this season. That's the second most in the minors, trailing only Astros first baseman Telvin Nash, who has 124 strikeouts in 246 at-bats.
The strikeout problem has gotten worse this month for Jackson. He's struck out an amazing 44 times in 25 games this month and Tuesday was the seventh time this month that he has struck out three times in a game.
Jackson's strikeout issues offer somewhat of a reminder of another center fielder with plenty of power and speed. Reds center fielder Drew Stubbs contact troubles were a constant question mark on his scouting reports as he came up through the minors. He's continued to strike out in bunches in the big leagues, including a 205-strikeout season in 2011. But he's also played good enough defense in center with enough pop (an average of 15 home runs a season as a big leaguer) and speed (20 steals per season) to keep his everyday job. Stubbs has more speed than Jackson and a touch more power, but the biggest concern in whether Jackson can follow in Stubbs' footsteps is that Stubbs never struck out this much in the minors.
Even though Stubbs has proven to be Mark Reynolds' equal in being rung up by umpires in the majors, he struck out in roughly 27 percent of his at-bats as a minor leaguer. Jackson's overall strikeout rate is 30 percent of his at-bats, and as noted above it's getting worse.
There are scouts who think that Jackson will lessen his strikeouts as he learns to avoid so many deep counts, but for now, his tendency for strikeouts is keeping him from taking advantage of his numerous tools.
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