Wednesday night the CCO posted that former first round pick Brett Jackson was hitting .500 in Double-A Tennessee (after Thursday’s 1-for-3 performance in which he extended his hitting streak to seven games, Jackson is hitting .480 with a .563 OBP and a .720 SLG). In jest, I posted a comment on letting the “Brett Watch” begin. But upon further reflection, that idea may not be as far-fetched as some might think. In the post, I made reference to last season, when the Cubs promoted Starlin Castro after only 109 at bats at Double-A, in which he hit .378. Some pointed out that there was “a hole” in the infield that allowed the Cubs to promote Castro.
I consulted Fangraphs, and found that at the time of Castro’s promotion Ryan Theriot was hitting .333, Mike Fontenot .295, and Jeff Baker .204. Defensively, that trio appeared to be having some problems, at least using the “eye test”. Castro was supposed to tighten up that area. However, Castro’s 27 errors would end up being more than those three players combined.
That brings us back to Brett Jackson. Presently, veterans Marlon Byrd and Alfonso Soriano are hitting .353 with a .377 OBP and .250 with a .283 OBP respectively. Soriano has four home runs and 10 RBI, while Kosuke Fukudome has hit .313 with a .500 OBP in limited play. Critics have said that they don’t want to see Jackson brought up to sit on the bench. But in truth, the situation and the reasons are similar to Castro’s last season.
First, Tyler Colvin, Carlos Pena and Reed Johnson are all struggling. Initially, any playing time Jackson would get would come at the expense of those players. This can possibly happen by Johnson being released, Colvin being demoted, or Pena being placed on the disabled list. Last season, the Cubs essentially benched a .295 hitter in Fontenot in order to play Castro.
Secondly, while Byrd and Soriano are hitting well, they too are not passing the “eye test” defensively. Soriano has already been charged with two errors (although some feel that only two errors is being generous). At 1.83, Marlon Byrd’s range factor is starting to become below acceptable for a starting centerfielder. By installing Jackson as the centerfielder and moving Byrd to right field, the Cubs could improve their outfield defense. Kosuke Fukudome would then move into the role of spot starter/defensive replacement.
Lastly, Jackson could help with issues in the batting order. While the leadoff spot hasn’t been the problem that fans anticipated, the Cubs can find better uses for productive hitters. By placing Jackson in the leadoff spot, Starlin Castro could be moved to third in the batting order. Marlon Byrd then could be placed in more run-producing situations, as can Jeff Baker when he starts.
All this right now is food for thought. It will be interesting to see where both Jackson and the Cubs are when he reaches 109 at bats.