I guess I could have said Austin Jackson hates rain since everyone thinks it pours 365 in the Emerald City, but then again, Safeco Field is civilized enough to have a roof so inclement weather doesn’t really apply. Digression. The point is, Austin Jackson, after the post-non-waiver-trading-deadline thing was pretty bad as a member of the Seattle Mariners. And in fantasy circles, pretty bad is generally accepted as being something one wants to avoid should one like winning shiny things. The question of course is was his level of badness, in a non-Michael-Jackson badness way, some product of dumb luck? Or is he going to, as Mike Tyson once said, “fade into Bolivian.”
Austin Jackson was ranked 31st in our pre-season ranking thing, which means he should have been rostered in most standard formats as a third outfielder, or perhaps one you would rotate in there when you really needed some runs scored. Never known for a ton of power, Jackson was coming off a .272/.337/.417 2013 campaign that saw him hit 12 home runs, while scoring 99 runs, driving in 49 and stealing eight bags over 129 games. Not necessarily a one trick pony, but Jackson wouldn’t kill you in batting average and had the potential to grab you plus-SB.
But if you followed that link above, you’ll notice he finished up ranked 48th in overall value. On the season, Austin Jackson hit .256/.308/.347 with just four home runs, a career low 71 runs scored, although he managed to swipe 20 bags — which really became his only fantasy asset. But his season line isn’t necessarily the problem, it’s what he did with the city which he will ostensibly be calling home for 2015. Because while with Seattle, he “hit” .229/.267/.260 with a .031 ISO, good for a wRC+ of 51. For reference, no other outfielder in baseball carried a wRC+ of 51 or lower over the course of the season, so I can’t even make a comparison to just how awful that is. He hit not a single home run with Seattle, and managed only five doubles over 236 plate appearances.
The differences between Austin Jackson the Tiger and the Mariner really couldn’t be much more stark.
He swung at far more balls outside the strike zone, made less contact, and swung and missed at a much higher rate. But then again, his overall 2014 season really doesn’t differ all that much from his career rates, so it’s possible his time in Seattle was just an anomaly. One thing he definitely did differently as a Mariner is hit a whole lot of ground balls in lieu of fly balls:
And if you check his scatterplot, those ground balls were all pretty weakly hit to the left side of the infield, and note the total lack of gap power:
Something that’s probably worth pointing out is that on his career, Jackson has historically been a first-half kind of producer. He hasn’t fallen apart like he did in 2014 before, but perhaps some mash-up of new city, pressure, despises wearing teal, exacerbated his typical tailspin. But overall, he are Jackson’s career splits:
That’s not damning, but the difference in power and production is a little more reliable over the course of 3000+ plate appearances instead of his brief stint in Seattle.
I do think it’s too early to stick a fork in Austin Jackson, however — and frankly, if he’s going to run at the pace he did in Seattle, he might even be a nice little value pick in very late rounds or for few dollars. Should you believe the early projection systems, they’re calling for .256/.322/.372 with nine home runs, 74 runs scored, 51 RBI, and 15 stolen bases. over 138 games played. If you take that over a full season, it gets a lot more interesting in terms of counting stats, and at age 28, he shouldn’t be in classic age-related decline, and that batting average might look a lot more like the career Jackson rate of .275. It’s certainly a gamble, but he could have decent value in 2015. But if April is a disaster, he’s obviously not someone to hang on to, but the good news is it won’t cost you much to find out what you’ve got.
Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.