Los Angeles Dodgers
Position: RHP Height: 6-3 Weight: 195 Born: 9/9/83 Bats: Right Throws: Right
Although he has yet to receive much media attention, Dodgers right-hander Edwin Jackson has snuck into the upper tier of minor-league pitching prospects. One of the youngest regular starters at the Double-A level, he's had a solid season for Jacksonville in the Southern League, positioning himself for a jump to Triple-A, and possibly the majors, in 2004. He is one of the best right-handed prospects in the game, and combines with fellow farmhand Joel Hanrahan to give the Dodgers two excellent arms for their staff in the coming years.
Jackson was drafted in the sixth round in 2001, out of high school in Columbus, Ga., where he was better known as a position player. But the Dodgers liked his arm strength, and felt his athleticism would help him develop consistent mechanics. So far, the decision to make Jackson a full-time pitcher looks inspired. He has one of the best fastballs in the system, hitting 95 mph at times, with movement. He also has a very good slider. His curveball and changeup are inconsistent, but both have promise. Jackson's command is excellent. He throws strikes with regularity, and his mechanics are both clean and consistent, which helps keep his command in gear. He has a good feel for pitching, needing only additional experience to round out his package of skills. He sometimes struggles to find his rhythm in the first inning, a common problem for young pitchers, and one that should ease with seasoning. Jackson's athleticism helps him on defense, and in time he has a chance to be less helpless as a hitter than most pitchers.
There are no holes in Jackson's stat line. His K/BB, K/IP, and H/IP ratios are all significantly above league average this year. Of note is the increase in his strikeout rate between last year and this season, especially impressive since the improvement has come at a higher level against older competition. Jackson has given up just 11 homers in his professional career, another good sign. Lefties have hit him at just a .188 clip this year, another positive marker.
Jackson has had no significant injury problems. His athleticism and clean mechanics should help keep him healthy, and he has less mileage on his arm than many pitchers his age.
What to expect
No pitching prospect comes with anything resembling a guarantee. But there are things to look for, and Jackson has them. His component ratios are sharp across the board. He throws hard. He throws strikes. He is athletic. He has some pitching instincts. His mechanics are good. He doesn't have huge amounts of mileage on his arm. None of this is a guarantee that he'll be successful, or that he'll avoid injury. But it does help load the odds in his favor as much as possible. Jackson is just now starting to get the attention he deserves. If everything proceeds according to plan, he should see Chavez Ravine sometime next year.
John Sickels is the author of the 2003 Baseball Prospect Book, which can be ordered from his Web site, JohnSickels.com. His biography of Bob Feller will be published this fall by Brassey's. He lives in Lawrence, Kan., with his wife, son, and two cats. You can send John questions or comments at JASickels@aol.com.