Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011
Posted: 9:02 p.m.
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The Cubs think Brett Jackson is straight out of central casting.
Hes their natural, a California dude who played his college ball at Berkeley. Hes the left-handed bat the organization is constantly searching for. Hes a good quote and he wont mind talking in front of the cameras. Hes not afraid of the bright lights.
Thats how Cubs people have talked about the 23-year-old Jackson, who could be roaming center field at Clark and Addison as soon as next season.
The Cubs made three more September call-ups from Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday reliever John Gaub, infielder DJ LeMahieu and outfielder Lou Montaez. Jackson was nowhere to be found at Wrigley Field.
That wasnt a surprise, because the Cubs had been downplaying the possibility for weeks, even though Jackson may have the highest ceiling of all their position-player prospects.
There are concerns about the 40-man roster, and starting the clock on his major-league service time. Those are decisions for the next general manager.
But Jackson the 31st overall pick in the 2009 draft is living up to the hype. Hes part of the player-development system Tom Ricketts has so much faith in that the chairman gave a new four-year contract to farm director Oneri Fleita. It wouldnt surprise anyone if Ricketts made a similar deal with scouting director Tim Wilken.
Jackson finished his second full professional season which began at Double-A Tennessee by hitting .297 with 10 homers, 26 RBI and a .939 OPS in 48 games at Iowa.
The skys the limit, interim general manager Randy Bush said. Its not out of the realm of possibility that this guy comes to camp and makes the team. Thats how quickly hes progressing.
Jackson will skip the Arizona Fall League. Hell play for Team USA and travel to Panama for the World Cup and Mexico for the Pan American Games. The hope is that a high-intensity environment, the pressure of international competition, will help him grow.
Were thrilled with his progress, Bush said. Hes getting better and better. For him to have made the jump to Iowa and perform as well as he did was outstanding. He just needs at-bats.
Hes such an interesting guy. Hes got speed and his powers already emerging. Hes patient. Hell take a walk. He brings a lot of things to the table that are pretty exciting looking forward.
Jackson wouldnt have played very much in the majors this month because right or wrong manager Mike Quade is loyal to his veterans and the Cubs are already committed to finding out about Tyler Colvin.
The Cubs also didnt want to have to protect Jackson from the Rule 5 draft because they already have to add around six players to the 40-man roster this winter. That group is headlined by Josh Vitters and Matt Szczur.
Vitters the third overall pick in the 2007 draft recently turned 22 and finished his Double-A regular season hitting .283 with 14 homers and 81 RBI in 129 games. Szczur got a unique contract and 1.5 million this season to give up his NFL ambitions and concentrate on one day becoming the true leadoff hitter the Cubs have lacked.
But no one seems to be coming as fast as Jackson, who walked around Fitch Park during spring training like he belonged. Around the clubhouse, the Cubs once saw similar traits in Starlin Castro.
He carries himself with a certain confidence, swagger, Bush said. Not in a bad way. (Its) just (understanding what hes) going to be able to do.
The outfields crowded now, but Marlon Byrd will be on an expiring contract next season (6.5 million). The Cubs have seemed willing to eat a large portion of the 54 million left on Alfonso Sorianos contract (if a taker can be found).
Colvin, another first-round pick, hasnt established himself yet. Reed Johnson could make sense on another one-year deal as the guy to mentor Jackson.
Is Jackson ready to make an impact in 2012?
Thats up to him, Quade said. We never had that conversation about Tyler Colvin before last year and what a spring he had. Im sure hes confident off what he was able to do for a little bit of time in Triple-A. Hell get a good look in spring training next year. He should. Hes earned that. But whether hes readywell see.
Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.