Welcome to the Who Is series, which should bring attention to prospects that do not get as much attention as others in the organization. I do not know how long this series will last. This could be the last one.
Actually, I plan on doing one more this week.
So who is Bralin Jackson?
Coming off the 2011 draft with 12 picks in the top 100, Tampa Bay's 2012 draft did not get quite as much attention with an ordinary 50 picks for 50 rounds and no extra selections anywhere.
Jackson was drafted 182nd overall in the fifth round and took just eight days to sign for $322,500. This was the first year of MLB's new rules to limit draft spending, and pick No. 182 was valued significantly less at $216,000.
According to Baseball America, who ranked Jackson No. 202, it was not a certainty that he would sign, but the Rays obviously wanted to get it done. Because he was so raw, a team would have to like him to believe it was worth it to sign him away from his commitment to Missouri.
Among prospects in BA's Missouri rankings ($), Jackson was third, behind former Rays pick and current Cubs prospect Pierce Johnson and current Rays prospect Mark Sappington.
The forecast that Jackson is raw proved to be accurate. In his pro debut with the Gulf Coast League Rays, he batted .253/.286/.342 with a 3.9 BB%, 25.3 K% and .343 BABIP. His OPS was 28 points below the league average, but his tools led BA to place him 27th on that offseason's Rays' top-30 prospect list.
Baseball America's pre-draft report that Jackson could use two years in rookie ball was also spot on. He advanced to Princeton in 2013 but struggled even more, batting .216/.281/.299 with a 7.4 BB% and 21.8 K%. The improvement in his plate approach was encouraging, but it still resulted in an OPS 95 points below the league average.
Jackson would start his second full season in extended spring training, now on the prospect back burner. The first 10 games of Hudson Valley's season were more of the same for him: .200/.273/.275 in 44 plate appearances.
In his 11th game, Jackson reached base four times. After an 0-for-4 game, he had a 10-game on-base streak. Over his final 52 games, he batted .296/.365/.407. At 25.2%, he still struck out far too much, but he walked at a 9.8% clip. For his efforts, he was selected to participate in the New York-Penn League All-Star Game, where he singled in two at-bats.
This is not gleaned from a scouting report from a legitimate source, but I wonder if the high walk and strikeout rates are a product of a passive hitter. Maybe Jackson does not venture out of the strike zone too much early in the count, which is obviously a good thing, but maybe he is also not attacking pitchers he should be.
If he does get his plate approach tightened up with Bowling Green in 2015, Jackson could take off offensively. He is a strong 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds with quick bat speed to offer above-average power potential. With four career home runs, that clearly has not developed into in-game production yet. If it ever does, Jackson would have the complete package.
Jackson's athleticism helps him on the bases and in the field. In 2014, he finally stole bases efficiently, swiping 17 in 21 attempts. He can play center field if he gets more experience out there, but playing at the same level as Thomas Milone, innings at the position could be scarce.