Before Javier Baez and Kris Bryant and Addison Russell, and all the other premium hitting prospects by which the Cubs now mark their hopes, there was center-fielder Brett Jackson. Chicago took Jackson with the 31st pick of the 2008 draft and from 2011 to 2012, he ranked among the game’s top 40 prospects, according to Baseball America, with BA likening him to four time all star and seven time gold-glover Jim Edmonds. On Thursday night, the Cubs officially cut ties with their former center-fielder-of-the-future, flipping him to Arizona for minor league reliever Blake Cooper.
Jackson, now 26, had fallen on hard times of late. He struggled to a .210/.298/.348 line for Triple-A Iowa this season, with a .646 OPS that was not dissimilar to the .626 mark he posted in 2013. The former Cal Berkely standout whiffed 94 times in just 252 plate appearances, for a strikeout rate of 37.3%. No hitter in the history of major league baseball has had a full season with a strikeout rate that high.
Indeed, a propensity to swing and miss is what ultimately led to Jackson’s downfall as a promising young player. He had speed and plus defense in center, plate discipline (73 walks in Double-A in 2011) and even some pop (20 home runs that year), but ultimately he just couldn’t put the ball in play. In 2012, his rookie season and the season he ceased to be considered a promising young player, Jackson struck out out 156 times in 467 plate appearances (33 K%) for Iowa before he got an August call up. He was even worse in the majors, striking out in 41.5% of the time, en route to a .175 batting average.
The return on Jackson was fairly light. Cooper, 26, was a 12th round pick in 2010 and in four seasons, has never appeared among BA’s top 30 Diamondbacks prospects. A right-handed reliever, he owns a 6.00 ERA and almost alarming peripherals – 6.4 BB/9, 7.5 SO/9 – in 24 innings for Triple-A Reno this season. His stats in prior years and at lower levels are stronger, though. He posted a 1.85 ERA and an 8.6 SO/9 at Double-A Mobile to start the season and is 16-15 with a 3.27 ERA for his career.
Jackson had been placed on waivers and was claimed by Arizona, who hold the second-highest priority after Colorado. The 25 year old outfielder will immediately report to Triple-A Reno, according to the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro