The Braves acquired Alex Jackson in November 2016 as part of a deal that sent Max Povse and Rob Whalen to Seattle. He moved up the minor league ladder rather slowly compared to the way in which some Atlanta prospects have rocketed through the ranks, and arrived in Triple-A in the middle of last season. While there was no chance for Jackson to make the club out of Spring Training given the entrenched status of Tyler Flowers and Brian McCann, he got a sliver of major league playing time anyway when Brian McCann hit the shelf in April, and then made one more start for the team in August.
What were the expectations?
Before the season, Fangraphs rated Jackson as the team’s 16th-best prospect. (He moved up to ninth midseason.) He got high power marks, but the hit tool was a concern. There wasn’t much of an expectation that he’d contribute at all in 2019: Steamer and ZiPS both saw him as a no-bat (sub-70 wRC+) catcher.
What went right in 2019?
Well, Jackson made the majors! He even drew a walk... though it was an intentional walk! His framing was dead-average-y-generic. He also hit 28 homers at Triple-A with an ISO north .300, but his poor on-base skills (.313 OBP) really dampened his overall offense output in the minors (109 wRC+). Let’s watch the video of the time he got hit by a pitch, I guess?
Ow. Good for .082 WPA, though, though it was for naught, as the Braves failed to score Jackson (who was replaced on the bases by Billy Hamilton, who was bunted to second, and then stole third with one out) thanks to inning-ending consecutive strikeouts by Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies. (The Braves won 2-1 in 14 innings.)
What went wrong in 2019?
It’s hard to say that anything really went particularly wrong when Jackson made the majors for any extent of time despite being blocked by McCann and Flowers, but he didn’t exactly light it up in all of 15 PAs, either. He struck out five times, only drew the one intentional walk, and didn’t barrel anything. His average exit velocity on eight batted balls was 78.5 mph, which... hyper-yeesh. His best-struck ball was basically a flare into shallow center (80.5 mph off the bat; the two balls he hit harder than that were a double-play grounder to short and a pop-out to first base). He didn’t hit a ball over 88 mph. Again, just 15 PAs, though.
Results-wise, his worst PA came on April 7. Jackson had a chance to score the go-ahead run from third base with less than one out, but struck out on a high fastball. C’est la vie. (The Braves would win on a Dansby Swanson zero-out walkoff single.)
What to expect in 2020?
Probably more of the same as in 2019. It doesn’t seem very likely that the Braves will roll with Jackson as a backup, unless something crazy happens and they acquire a full-bore catcher in lieu of extending Tyler Flowers’ tenure in Atlanta. Jackson’s not exactly knocking down the door, either, but maybe his third go-around at Triple-A will be the charm. Or not.