It’s too early to determine exactly what kind of hitter Brett Jackson will become at the major league level. He’s played in all of nine games having made just 35 plate appearances.
What we’ve seen thus far, albeit expectedly, hasn’t been pretty. Jackson is striking out at a horrific pace, even more frequently than he did at Triple-A Iowa, fanning 18-times, which is right at 51-percent of his total plate appearances.
Theo & Jed, however, have quickly come to Jackson’s defense referencing the early struggles of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle upon their arrivals in the big leagues in 1951.
Mays hit .163/.294/.326 through his first 51 plate appearances, including seven hits, four for extra bases, one home run and five RBI. He drew seven walks vs. five strikeouts.
Mantle’s first 50 plate appearances looked like this: .222/.289/.575. He totaled 10 hits, two for extra bases, no home runs, six RBI and five walks (one intentional) vs. 10 strikeouts.
Jackson enters this weekend’s four-game series at Cincinnati (where he should hit 50 total plate appearances) hitting .188/.257/.281. He’s managed six hits, two for extra bases, no home runs, one RBI and three walks vs. the aforementioned 18 strikeouts.
So what can we make from comparing Jackson to Mays & Mantle? I’d say, not much.
LITTLE IN COMMON BETWEEN JACKSON & TWO HOFs
First of all, there’s a noticeable age difference with Jackson, who turned 24 on August 2nd. The Say Hey Kid was 20-years-old when he made his debut for the New York Giants. Mantle was 19 when he debuted for the Yankees.
When Mays was 24 he hit a major league-leading 51 HR, drove in 127 RBI and finished fourth in the MVP Award. His slashline was .319/.400/ with a major league-leading .659 SLG. The OPS was 1.059 and his OPS+ a marvelous 174!
Mantle at 24 hit a major league-leading 52 HR and 130 RBI. He also scored a major league-leading 132 runs with a slashline of .353/.464/.705. The OPS: 1.169. His OPS+: 210! Each category led the majors except for his still eye-popping .464 OBP. And oh yeah, Mantle also won the MVP Award that season (1956).
WHAT ARE THEO & JED REALLY SAYING?
The message Team Theo is trying to get across is that a player’s first couple of weeks in ‘The Show’ tend to be overwhelming—and not that they believe the next Mays or Mantle is in the Cubs on-deck circle.
While using the comparison of Jackson’s early struggles to that of two Hall of Famers who suffered equally is flattering for the kid, it’s hardly fair.
Instead, it’s just a reminder that figuring things out at first blush against the best pitchers in the world isn’t always easy, even for some of the game’s very best hitters.
No Cubs fan in their right mind is expecting Jackson to elevate his game to the level of Willie or The Mick. Not that it couldn’t happen.
But what I really learned from looking at the comparisons is Mays & Mantle both mastered the necessary adjustments at the major league level rather quickly–enough so that they were performing at MVP-caliber levels by the time they were Jackson’s age, and that’s what truly needs to be assessed in BJax’s case.
How quickly will this kid learn on the job? Can he make the right adjustments, or are his talents just another case of Cubs fans hyping expectations to unreasonable levels?
Time will tell, as it does with all players, if Jackson is major league material. It may not happen as quickly as we would like, Jackson could begin next season back in Iowa, but we’ll know soon enough.
Until then, let’s hold off on the comparison talk, unless of course, we’re discussing who Cubs fans hyped more: Jackson or Felix Pie? Other candidates are welcomed, too.