The minor league rosters have pretty much taken shape and there are some surprises with the assignments at the various levels. Some players unexpectedly were assigned to higher levels while others return to the same level although their 2017 performance might have suggested otherwise. Still others will participate in extended spring training and the Driveline program. Regrettably, a few have already been inexplicably released, such as right-handers Logan Crouse and Alex Hermeling.
A number of the 2017 draftees and acquisitions have yet to make their professional debuts while some have had only a very few innings pitched or a very few at bats.
For me, I have always loved the “sleeper alerts” with drafted players. That is, players with top-10 round possibilities being available in the mid-teen rounds or later. Left-hander Caleb Ferguson, who was a 38th round selection in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, would be a classic example of a sleeper in that he was drafted while recovering from TJ surgery. Other young players, especially pitchers, who have impressive fastballs and/or breaking pitchers but have mechanical difficulties or command issues are often passed over. But, not always, and hence become sleepers who have the potential for development and become bonus picks for teams.
One of the Dodgers sleeper picks was Andre Jackson who was selected in the 12th round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Utah. He had previously been picked in the 32nd round in 2014 draft by the Texas Rangers but chose not to sign out of high school. Perhaps the Rangers later felt they dodged a bullet.
He was born in Tucson, Arizona and attended high school at Cinenega High School in Vail, located just a short distance southeast of Tucson. After his high school graduation the 6’3”/187-pound right-hander headed off to the University of Utah but pitched only 20.2 innings over two years with the Utes. He did play 34 games as a clutch hitting outfielder and designated hitter.
In November of 2016 Jackson had the now almost commonplace TJ surgery and missed the entire 2017 season. Yet the Dodgers selected him as early as the 12th round.
The rehabbing Jackson served as a bit of an inspiration when addressing his Utes teammates and learned a valuable baseball lesson as a result of his injury.
“I told them we take the game for granted,” Jackson said. “Being able to throw a baseball at all, we take that for granted. That was something I couldn’t do a month ago. I told the team if there was something I could give you guys is don’t take anything for granted, because this game could be taken away from you just like that. I think that put things in perspective.”
Utah’s head coach, Bill Kinneberg, lamented the loss of Jackson while revealing how important he was to the team and had expressed optimism he would still be selected in the 2017 draft.
“Without him playing a single inning and getting drafted that tells you what we lost this year with his injury,” said Kinneberg, who noted that Jackson is a two-way guy that can pitch a lot of innings, be a force on offense and be a defensive factor in the outfield.
Kinneberg added that Jackson is “going to give an organization a really good arm to project and mold. His surgery and rehab have gone great.”
Prior to the June draft, Perfect Game released a scouting report on Andre Jackson: “Jackson red shirted in ’17 as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, definitely giving him the profile of a significantly deep sleeper. When healthy, Jackson is a hyper-athletic right-handed pitcher with a good deal of the components that scouts look for in pitching prospects; even with the injury. He’s got plus arm speed with a fastball that has been into the mid-90’s; and his athleticism allow scouts to project a quality command profile long term. He’s a very deep sleeper at this point; but a team could most certainly take a chance on him on Day 3.”
Dodgers Director of Amateur Scouting , Billy Gasparino, took the chance.
“We think he switches over to being a full-time pitcher,” Gasparino said. “He’s almost through his Tommy John rehab. We really think he’s an exciting talent on the mound.”
Andre Jackson, now 21, should make his way to the Ogden Raptors of the rookie level Pioneer League during the 2018 season. Limiting his innings no doubt will preclude any further advancement during the season.