Take a second and think about your job. Pretend that you are comfortable in your spot, have been with your company for a long time, and you are just about ready to get a promotion. Pretend that your company decides to trade you for someone because this new person will help your company better in the future.
This scenario happened to Mariners center fielder Austin Jackson in 2014. He was primed and ready to make a deep run in the playoffs with the Detroit Tigers before being traded to Seattle. He was in a comfort zone with a team that he had been with for 4 ½ years, and when he came to Seattle, he wasn’t the same player.
Now in 2015, after having two months in Seattle in 2014, he should be a little bit more comfortable in his role. He was on the record saying that he was trying to do too much a season ago, but now he has a defined role on this Mariners ball club in which he should excel in.
The speedy center fielder for the Mariners is in a great spot to succeed. Jackson is the perfect lead off man for this team. He isn’t trying to hit home runs, but just get on base. That is exactly what his role is in a lineup filled with the likes of Cano, Cruz, and Seager right behind him.
This spring he has done just that. In 54 at-bats, Jackson has hit .333 with an OPS of .831. Spring Training numbers are always a bit blown out of proportion, but if Jackson can hit somewhere around .280-ish, and get on base somewhere over the .310 mark, the Mariners will be in business. What stands out to me the most is that he hasn’t hit any home runs this spring. That could be equated to a certain sense of being comfortable and knowing your role on a baseball team.
When Austin Jackson was traded to Seattle in a deadline deal in 2014, he was reuniting with his former hitting coach in Detroit, Lloyd McClendon. McClendon thinks very highly of Jackson’s capability of getting production.
“Two years ago, Austin Jackson was probably rated the fifth-best center fielder in all of baseball,” said McClendon, via MLB.com. “He struggled a little last year, which goes to show you he’s human. He made a transition from the Tigers to the Mariners, and it was a tough transition. But I suspect this young man will be pretty good for us. I know he’s very dedicated to the game of baseball. He’s settled in and happy to be here, and I would think he’ll be a pretty darn good center fielder for us.”
Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik also talked with 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk” about how important Austin Jackson is at the lead off spot and his relationship with McClendon.
“I think the thing with Austin Jackson is Lloyd knows him so well,” Zduriencik said. “He knows the really good player that he had in Detroit. He saw the good things out of him. He saw him (play) really good defensively, he saw him be a really good offensive player for them.”
The Mariners’ organization and fans haven’t seen what Jackson is capable of doing. When he was in Detroit, his numbers were much more representative of what he is capable of. McClendon and Zduriencik are looking for the real Austin Jackson that they didn’t see last August and September.
“You know last year he had an OK August and didn’t have a good September. I think (McClendon) feels that the best player we have not seen yet (is Jackson),” Zduriencik said. “He’s a great kid, great young man, did a nice job in center field last year. (He) should be a real good player for us.”
Austin Jackson could be one of the least talked about players on this Mariners ball club. He is the guy at the top of the order that will set the stage for the rest of the lineup to get him across the plate. Look for Jackson to be a key to Seattle’s success this season.