Angels Prospect Jeremiah Jackson Can Juice a Baseball

Jeremiah Jackson made meaningful developmental strides this season. More mental than mechanical, they came amid an injury-interrupted campaign that saw him miss 11 weeks with a torn quad. Playing almost exclusively with the Low-A Inland Empire 66ers, the 21-year-old middle infield prospect homered 10 times while putting up a healthy 128 wRC+ over 218 plate appearances.

How satisfied was he with his performance?

“Satisfied is a word you kind of don’t use in baseball,” said Jackson, whom the Los Angeles Angels drafted 57th overall out of a Mobile, Alabama high school in 2018. “But under the circumstances, I was happy with how I played when I did play. I obviously could have been better, but I’m by no means mad. I learned a lot.”

Jackson feels that his time on the shelf — he was out from late June until early September — contributed to his education. Having more time on his hands allowed him to take a step back and study pitchers throughout the course of a game. How are they attacking certain hitters? What are they seeing that makes them want to throw a certain pitch? What are their mindsets on the mound?

Translating those observations to the batter’s box remains the objective.

“A lot of what I learned would go into categories like ‘approach,’” said Jackson, whose 33.2% strikeout rate this year is a cause for concern. “It’s important to have a plan and not just go up there swinging, looking to do damage all the time. That said, you want to get a good swing off; you want to do damage.”

His right-handed swing did big-time damage in 2019. Playing with the Pioneer League’s Orem Owlz, the then-19-year-old went deep 23 times in just 291 plate appearances. Jackson doesn’t look the part of a slugger — he’s listed at 6-foot, 175 pounds — but he can juice a baseball.

“I’ve always been a little bit smaller compared to most of the guys I’ve played with,” related Jackson. “But I’ve never really lacked power. Hard work has been part of that, but a lot of it is just God having given me a gift. Now I’m learning to use it when I need it, knowing that I don’t have to swing hard to hit the ball far.”

Again, whiffs have been an issue. Jackson’s home run heavy 2019 season came with a 33.0% strikeout rate, which was nearly identical to this year’s mark. Has the young shortstop been guilty of selling out in order to get to his power?

“In high school, I could just take a big swing and be okay,” explained Jackson, who was named Alabama’s 2018 Mr. Baseball following a senior season in which he batted .637 at St. Luke’s Episcopal. “I wouldn’t swing-and-miss much, because of the talent level. Once you get into pro ball, the pitching is obviously a lot better; guys are throwing harder and the pitches are moving a lot more.

“I wouldn’t say that I’ve sold out for power,” continued Jackson. “I think a lot of the swing-and-miss has come from being anxious and kind of wanting to hit everything. In high school, I could hit a ball that was barely off the ground, whereas in pro ball those pitches are going to miss bats. I’m learning to zone in on one pitch — one spot, even — and make sure I put myself in a good position to hit. If you’re swinging and missing at that first-pitch heater, you’re probably not going to get another one. What you’re going to do is put yourself in a hole, and then get his nastier stuff. So for me, it’s about approach more than anything.”

Jackson did acknowledge having made some mechanical adjustments. Primarily geared to his lower half, they go hand-in-hand with his goal of becoming a more-disciplined hitter. Explaining that he’s “really quick-twitch and rotational,” Jackson believes that getting more into his legs makes him less susceptible to making swing-decisions too early. By “creating space, and creating time,” the rotation will happen later in the swing, as opposed to him “rotating and then trying to find the barrel.”

As his slugging numbers suggest, Jackson — No. 9 on our newly-released 2022 Angels Top Prospect list — is more than capable of doing damage when he does find the barrel. The extent to which he can improve on that aspect of his game will go a long way toward determining his future success.

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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1 year ago

Nice article. He sounds pretty intelligent for a kid his age.