Consistency meter: Conor Jackson

image
Jackson making contact with a pitch out in front, reducing his power (Icon/SMI)

It is time for another edition of Consistency Meter! The player we will be looking at today is… Conor Jackson.

Jackson was a high pick in the 2003 draft at 13th overall and moved up the minors with relative ease. He got his first taste of MLB action late in 2005 and by 2006 he secured the D-backs’ starting first baseman’s job, which he has sort of held since.

+------+-----+--------------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM         | AB  | BA    | HR | RBI | R  | SB |
+------+-----+--------------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+
| 2006 |  23 | Diamondbacks | 485 | 0.291 | 15 |  79 | 75 |  1 |
| 2007 |  24 | Diamondbacks | 415 | 0.284 | 15 |  60 | 56 |  2 |
| 2008 |  25 | Diamondbacks | 540 | 0.300 | 12 |  75 | 87 | 10 |
+------+-----+--------------+-----+-------+----+-----+----+----+

In his first full season in the majors (2006) Jackson played encouragingly well for a rookie, posting the numbers seen above. At just 23, those are impressive numbers. As good as the numbers were, people wanted and were expecting Jackson to improve upon them and fulfill his superstar potential.

You see, however, that Jackson did not improve those numbers in the following two years; instead his production stagnated at the level of his rookie season. While those numbers are certainly not bad, they are only a feather’s throw above the average first baseman’s. At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds Jackson brings forth the expectation of more home runs than the 15 a season he currently hits.

Power skills

Let’s look at Jackson’s True Home Run numbers.

+------+-----+--------------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM         | AB  | HR | tHR | HR/FB | tHR/FB | nHR/FB | RAW | OF/FB% |
+------+-----+--------------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+
| 2006 |  23 | Diamondbacks | 485 | 15 |  22 |     9 |     14 |     15 | 3.2 |     38 |
| 2007 |  24 | Diamondbacks | 415 | 15 |  16 |    11 |     11 |     13 | 0.7 |     38 |
| 2008 |  25 | Diamondbacks | 540 | 12 |  15 |     7 |      9 |      9 | 0.0 |     34 |
+------+-----+--------------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+-----+--------+


If you’re new to THT Fantasy Focus and are unfamiliar with True Home Runs (tHR) or any of the other stats I’m using, check out our quick reference guide. These stats provide a much clearer picture of a player’s talent, so it’s well worth taking a couple of minutes to learn them.

If you are rooting for Jackson to develop into an All-Star, then this table is discouraging. My hunch before looking at the numbers was that Jackson could have been improving his power ability, with his actual home run totals simply not yet showing it. Instead we see that Jackson’s power abilities have been declining slightly since his rookie season.

I see no reason why he should suddenly start blasting 30 home runs—or even 25—in 2009.

Contact skills

The one thing Jackson has been really, really good at since his college days is controlling the strike zone. Even at the major league level, Jackson has walked and struck out at almost the same rate.

+------+-----+--------------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM         | AB  | BA    | tBA   | CT% | BABIP | mBABIP | LD% | BIP/HR | BIP/tHR |
+------+-----+--------------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+
| 2006 |  23 | Diamondbacks | 485 | 0.291 | 0.300 |  85 | 0.317 |  0.311 |  21 |     27 |      19 |
| 2007 |  24 | Diamondbacks | 415 | 0.284 | 0.299 |  88 | 0.294 |  0.309 |  20 |     24 |      23 |
| 2008 |  25 | Diamondbacks | 540 | 0.300 | 0.299 |  89 | 0.321 |  0.314 |  22 |     40 |      32 |
+------+-----+--------------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+

Talk about a true .300 hitter! Jackson makes contact often and sprays the ball hard to all fields, allowing him to boast a high BABIP despite his relative slow speed. Let’s a look at Jackson’s plate discipline stats to see if his approach at the plate is as consistent as his batting average.

+------+-----+--------------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM         | AB  | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P  | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL |
+------+-----+--------------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| 2006 |  23 | Diamondbacks | 485 |  85 |        103 | 0.10 |          94 |       65 |
| 2007 |  24 | Diamondbacks | 415 |  88 |        117 | 0.07 |          92 |       75 |
| 2008 |  25 | Diamondbacks | 540 |  89 |        106 | 0.23 |          94 |       66 |
+------+-----+--------------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+

We see that Jackson has tremendous judgment of pitches and great ability to make contact with pitches inside the zone, but has an overly passive (A/P) approach. That his A/P ratio moved significantly toward 1.00 in 2008 is promising; it shows that Jackson is actively trying to become more aggressive at the plate. This aggressive approach most likely would result in more home runs for Jackson, although it would come at a cost of a few points of batting average. At this point in his career, most people would be more than willing to make that trade.

Concluding thoughts

I mentioned that Jackson has “sort of” held the first baseman’s job for the D-backs since 2006. I was ambiguous because in 2008 Jackson played first base but also saw significant time in left field. Early indications are that Jackson will begin 2009 as the starting left fielder, since the D-backs want to give infielder Chad Tracy a chance to resurrect his career.

With Jackson, Chris Young and Justin Upton in the outfield, it pushes Eric Byrnes and his $30 million contract to a backup role. Still, it appears to be Jackson’s starting job to lose. The Diamondbacks are not going to bench Jackson if he is batting .300, but be aware that his leash is somewhat short if he does not get off to a quick start. Of course the same could be said of Tracy, in which case Jackson would move back to first with Byrnes sliding into left.

I will also name-drop Josh Whitesell, a 26 year old “prospect” who batted .328 and hit 26 home runs for the D-backs’ Triple-A affiliate. He is a longshot to get playing time, but if the right chain of events occurs, he could end up with some at-bats playing first.

Assuming Jackson does get a season’s worth of at-bats, I am expecting a line around .290 average, 18 home runs and five steals. Trying to project his runs and RBI totals would be pointless ,as it depends mostly on where he bats in the lineup. That makes Jackson a decent value if you can get him late enough in drafts. More than anything else, his newly acquired outfield eligibility helps his value, as he is a decent second or third outfield choice.

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Comments

  1. Zach Sanders said...

    Interesting. I would expect about the same numbers from Jackson.

    Where does he rank among first baseman compared to his outfield rank? Where would you take him in drafts (assuming he is 1B/LF eligible)?

    -Zach Sanders
    http://www.mlbnotebook.com

  2. Paul Singman said...

    Zach, in most leagues you would probably be starting Jackson in the outfield if you draft him, although roster configurations could change that.

    It is tough to tell exactly where he will fall in drafts, but somewhere around the 15th-17th rounds seems good to me. I can also see his rank getting bumped up later in the off season, though, forcing him to be picked a bit earlier.

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