Jays Prospects Updates: Double Trouble in AA - Gose and Jackson

With so many Jays prospects to consider for an update, it was evident that one who could slip through the cracks due to many years or trial and tribulation was Justin Jackson. Recently moved from 2B to the OF, it seems that the lack of focus on defensive plays has allowed Justin to focus on things at the plate instead, and the results are definitely positive so far. As such, he was promoted to AA from HiA, and is now showing that he belongs amongst some of the best OF prospects in the Jays organization.

Anthony Gose, meanwhile, has been in the spotlight ever since he was traded to the Jays in return for Brett Wallace. With the success of Wallace in Houston (.290/.374/.413), many fans have amped up their opinions that the Jays may have lost out in this trade. I vehemently disagree with them, and will point to the recent ever increasing success of Anthony to prove my point.

Between these two outfielders, the AA New Hampshire team has a tag-team which cause some real trouble for opposing teams as the lineup turns from Jackson, who hits 9th in the lineup, to Gose in the leadoff position. Both have been having great ABs since Jackson was promoted (last 5 games), and they have hit 12 for 36 (.333) over that span. Jackson has only struck out twice while walking once, and Gose has 3 HRs, a double, a triple and a SB. They have combined for 8 runs and 8 RBIs during this 5 game span and are both big reasons NH has been able to get ahead of Harrisburg (WAS) for the league leading record of 49-33 (.598).

Best of all, these 2 have played great of late, but neither are counted as part of the 7 players who will play in the Eastern League All-Star game. That tells you a little something about the talent on that squad.

During his time in AA this season, Jackson has managed a .348/.375/.522 line, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 1 BB and 4 SO. This would indicate that Jackson, currently 22 years old, is ready for the challenges of AA. Meanwhile, Gose now has a year-long line of .261/.353/.419 with 9 doubles, 5 triples, 9 HRs, 39 SBs, 36 BB, 80 SO. Even better for Gose is his performance over the last 10 games, perhaps due to not making the All-Star game, as he has a .395/.439/.789 line over his last 10, with 1 double, 1 triple, 4 HRs, and 6 SBs. Gose still has a month to go before he makes it to 21 years old, making his progression in AA impressive to say the least. If he keeps it up, he’ll wind up with more than 15 HRs, over 70 SBs, and a decent looking line to finish up his 2011 season in AA. Those kind of stats, if translated to the majors, provide Anthony Gose with Carl Crawford style potential.

Just to compare, at 20 years old, Crawford had the following stats in AAA: 383 ABs, 17 doubles, 9 triples, 7 HRs, 26 SBs, and a .297/.335/.456 line. That’s 33 extra base hits in 383 ABs for Crawford while playing in the International League (IL), and Gose already has 23 extra base hits in 291 ABs while playing in the Eastern League (EL). Crawford did manage a better average (.297 to Gose’s .261), but when you consider that Gose has a better OBP (.353 compared to .335), and already has more SBs than Crawford had (39 to 26), you see a much more even comparison. What Gose really needs to work on overall is his contact rate and his strike out rates.

His 80 SOs so far in 2011 are somewhat ugly. The good news for Gose? He has learned to take walks this season, already managing 36 part way through the season, compared to 45 all season long in 2010. That has brought his SO/BB ratio down from 2.93 in 2010 to 2.22 in 2011. It really needs to get a little bit better, but the improvement is showing his maturity at the plate and is a very encouraging sign.

Another point in terms of Gose when compared to Crawford is the fact that Gose is sure to stick in CF, whereas Crawford was moved to the corners fairly early in his career. That makes Gose’s bat play up at the position. Add in the fact that Gose already has 6 outfield assists in 2011 (Crawford had 6 all season long at the same age in AAA) and would have the best CF arm if he were in the majors today, and you’ve got all of the tools Gose needs to become just as good as – if not better than – Carl Crawford if he makes good on all of his potential.

Justin Jackson was a 1st rd sandwich pick in 2007 (45th overall) that seemed to be a bust from the get-go. He had a .187/.274/.241 line after signing in 2007 in the GCL, a .238/.340/.368 line in 2008 in Lansing, followed by a year that saw his lowest point as a prospect to the tune of a .213/.321/.269 line in 2009 in Dunedin. His struggles in 2009 were followed by a repeat of Lansing in 2010 to start the season (.249/.328/.301) and some more time in Dunedin (30 ABs for a line of .200/.314/.233). So, when the 2011 season began, there wasn’t much hope that he would once again place himself on the map as a decent Jays prospect. He had horrible SO rates all of the way through, wasn’t stealing that many bases, and definitely wasn’t hitting for much power.

The only change I can see which could be attributed to his latest success is the position change. It has resulted in a refreshing year for Justin, bringing him to career highs in the minors in terms of extra base hit rate (7.9% in  HiA), lowest SO rate (25%), and hit rate (28%). All of the while, he is hitting a career high .280/.363/.398 overall, putting himself squarely back on the map as he continues to come out of his shell this season.

Having pointed to his great 2011, I still have reservations about calling Jackson a top-notch OF prospect for the Jays. He still has many obstacles in his way, still has a lot to prove, and still has to beat out all of the other OF prospects for playing time in the minors, nevermind actually getting a shot in the majors. Still, his trade value has never been higher, his potential finally seems to be coming to the surface, and he does seem to be putting his name into consideration for a possible #4 OF somewhere in MLB at some point in the future. Since he’s only 22 and now in AA, he has lots of time to develop the tools he has and to possibly add some strength to his 6’1″ 186 lbs frame. I’m not sure he has enough potential to beat out the likes of Moises Sierra, Eric Thames, Travis Snider, Anth0ny Gose, Jacob Marisnick, Michael Crouse, ect.. ect.. for a spot in the Jays OF. But, if his value gets to be high enough for Alex Anthopoulos to be able to flip him for a piece the Jays need, I believe he may do so.

Final Take

Both Gose and Jackson have their many doubters. Many of their arguments are well-substantiated, but I feel as though both are beginning to blossom as true prospects. While Gose has all-star caliber potential and could be the best CF the Jays have ever had if all of his tools blossom as they have the potential to do, Jackson may have a harder time cracking an MLB lineup. In any case, as of today, the Jays AA affiliate is enjoying their skills and is garnering the wins as a result. They are both assets that the Jays can use to make the squad better in 2012, either as Jays or in trade talks, and both should be monitored for the rest of 2011 in order to gauge just how close they may – or may not – be to making the majors.

While Brett Wallace’s line has been nice in a pitiful Houston lineup, it doesn’t even begin to compare with the production the Jays need from their 1B in order to succeed in the A.L. East. There simply is no comparison between his 4 HRs and .290/.374/.410 line when compared to A.L. East 1B, including Adam Lind who has 16 HRs and a .310/.364/.552 line. Sure, Wallace is much younger, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll ever hit with enough power to be a viable starting 1B on any AL Team. My take on Wallace is that his value in 2013 will be minimal when compared to the value of Anthony Gose. Hold me to it. Look up both players in 2013 and call me out if you want. But, to me, his top 5 CF in all of MLB potential sure beats the crap out of Wallace and his top….what….12-18 1B potential?

I do think that Jackson will continue to do well, but I don’t think anyone can really say what that will lead to. Will he be brought up at some point in the future as a 4th outfielder, traded, or become a AAA for life player? He is hitting the ball better than he ever has, has increased his power, and can definitely handle the OF defensively. If the Jays can get some value for him on the market, I’d lean towards that option.

I firmly believe Anthony Gose will become the best defensive, and one of the best 2 Offensive, center-fielders the Jays have ever had.

What are your thoughts on Gose and Jackson?

What do you view as being the ceilings of Anthony Gose and Justin Jackson?

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- MG

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