Justin Jackson was the 45th pick overall in the 2007 first year player draft. When Toronto selected him with their A round compensation pick, they thought he could be the “shortstop of the future”.
Jackson was born on December 11th, 1988 in North Carolina. He came from a baseball background, being the son of Chuck Jackson, who had a couple cups of coffee with the Astros in the late 1980′s. Described as a true five-tool talent player, Jackson’s skills were slow in catching up with his raw talent.
Since being drafted in 2007 Jackson has played 7 positions, including 150 games in the outfield — but he hasn’t pitched professionally.
His scouting report’s in the first two seasons after being drafted described him as having the capability of being incredibly special — but always had a fairly high bust potential due to his offensive struggles. In 6 minor league seasons Jackson hit .230/.320/.315 while stealing 81/113 bases, playing only as high as Double-A New Hampshire in parts of 2 seasons.
So, what’s a 24-year old with 6 years in the minors to do when his time as a “shortstop” was clearly running low?
Jackson always had an absolute cannon for an arm. In Highschool Jackson dabbed around as a relief pitcher and was clocked at velocities in the 93 mph area. Since then he’s put on some muscle, so it’s fair to say that he may still have that velocity. Besides, he was known for his accuracy and strength throwing across the diamond… what’s the big deal about 60 ft.-6 inches?
Players moving from a position to the pitching rubber aren’t totally uncommon. The Blue Jays very own Sergio Santos made the transition. Santos was rushed through the low minors as a shortstop and struggled at the Triple-A level in 4 seasons with 4 teams, including the Blue Jays. He was then acquired by the White Sox, who decided at 25 years old his career as a position played was finished. He spent the 2009 season in the minors learning how to pitch, and in 2010 the arm strength translated into an electric high 90′s fastball pitching to a 2.96 ERA. In his second season he saved 30 games.
Can Jackson pull the old switcheroo and successfully make the transition from position player to pitcher? He has the arm strength and the accuracy, so definitely keep your eye out for Justin Jackson — the pitcher — in 2013. One thing is for sure, he’s excited: