Cubs: Brett Jackson still trying to find his way

Cubs: Brett Jackson still trying to find his way
August 21, 2013, 1:00 pm
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Tony Andracki

In baseball, there's no such thing as a "can't miss" prospect.

Every player is just one injury or one prolonged slump away from falling out of the game for good.

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Cubs outfield prospect Brett Jackson has endured a rough couple of years, but he's doing everything he can to get his career back on track.

"The last couple years have featured some adversity for me," Jackson told Mick Gillispie of Smokies on the Radio. "But adversity is what makes the man. That's what I've always been told. When you're in the midst of adversity, sometimes it's hard to believe.

"But I do believe, in my heart, this adversity I've been going through the last couple years has been beneficial for me as a hitter, as a player and as a person."

Prior to the start of last season, things were going great for the 31st overall pick in the 2009 draft. Jackson was coming off a 2011 season in which he posted an .869 OPS with 20 homers and 21 steals and was considered not only one of the Cubs' top prospects, but earned a nod as Baseball America's No. 32 prospect in the game.

Jackson started 2012 with Triple-A Iowa and despite 158 strikeouts in 106 games, the athletic outfielder put up an .817 OPS with 15 homers and 27 steals, earning a call-up to the big-league club for the final two months of the season.

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He continued striking out at an alarming rate -- 59 whiffs in 120 at-bats -- and hit only .175, proving he was not quite ready for a full-time role in the majors.

Jackson's 2013 season has been a nightmare, marred by injury and ineffectiveness. He posted a .223/.300/.367 line in 61 games with Triple-A Iowa while striking out 77 times.

After some time on the disabled list with a calf injury, Jackson was sent down to Double-A Tennessee, where he has endured more struggles, hitting just .183 with zero extra-base hits in 60 at-bats.

"Sometimes you have to take a little detour and that detour is ultimately what makes you the player you want to be and strive to be everyday," Jackson said.

Jackson is back down at a level he hadn't played in since early 2011, but he sees the move down to Double-A as a way to remind himself why he got into this game in the first place, playing alongside some of the Cubs' top prospects like Javier Baez and Christian Villanueva.

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"There's a lot of youth and and a lot of energy and motivation to win every day," Jackson said of the Tennessee Smokies. "Not that there isn't that at the higher levels, but sometimes it's something that lacks a little bit when the youth goes away. It's been nice to surround myself with some guys that really just get after the game.

"Javy [Baez], obviously being one of those guys. He's 20 years old and plays like a little kid and has fun and plays professionally. In the last five years since I was 20, it can be a challenge to be that little kid and to remember that this is a game we play because we want to feel like little kids. We get wrapped up in the business and paying bills and it becomes your job.

"But really, first and foremost, it's my passion, our passion. Why we live to feel the way we did when we were 10 years old. We get to do that everyday. It's been a really comforting reminder to be around guys that get after the game like it's playing in the park. It's an enjoyable experience."

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Some players in Jackson's shoes may have called it quits and hung up their spikes by now, but the kid with long, blonde hair from Berkeley, Calif., isn't ready to say goodbye to the game.

Jackson's time with the Cubs at the end of last season was supposed to speed up his development. He worked with Cubs manager Dale Sveum in the offseason on improving his top hand and cutting down strikeouts. The results haven't come yet, but Jackson is not losing hope.

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"I think this step back down is, in a way -- in every way -- it's really beneficial for me as a player," he said. "I have no doubts I'm going to get back on the right track and be a part of this group as it moves into Chicago and bring some W's for the city of Chicago."