In the aftermath of the community prospect rankings wrapping up, we continue our write-ups for each Ranger prospect who finished in the top 25. Once again, I issue my usual caveat that I have no first-hand information about these guys, but am simply offering capsule scouting reports for each player based on the info that is out there...
After the jump, we continue by taking a look at the #14 player in the LSB Community Prospect Rankings, righthanded pitcher Luke Jackson...
Luke Jackson is a 6'2", 185 lb. righthanded pitcher who the Rangers selected with a supplemental first round pick (#45 overall) in the 2010 draft out of Calvary Christian High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Baseball America had Jackson ranked as the #126 prospect in the 2010 draft, with Jackson getting high marks for his athleticism and what BA described as "electric" stuff, but inconsistency and lack of a quality second pitch pushing him down in their rankings.
Jackson's bonus demands had many expecting he would wind up going to college, but the Rangers ended up giving him at well-above-slot $1.545 million bonus, the third highest of the 2010 supplemental round (only Nick Castellanos and Anthony Renaudo got more), and only a hair less than the $1.557 million Jake Skole got from Texas as their first pick in that draft. Nevertheless, as a late sign, Jackson did not make his pro debut until 2011.
Jackson spent the 2011 season in the South Atlantic League with the Rangers' low-A affiliate, the Hickory Crawdads, and had an up and down year. Jackson did put up impressive strikeout numbers -- 78 in just 75 innings over 19 starts -- but he also walked 48 hitters and allowed 9 home runs while posting a 5.64 ERA. And while the surface numbers are disappointing, it is important to remember that Jackson is relatively new to pitching, not being on the mound regularly until he started high school.
Jackson provides an interesting contrast with Cody Buckel, another righthander taken by the Rangers in the 2010 draft out of high school. Buckel's reputation is that he "knows how to pitch," and while he doesn't have great stuff, he can throw a variety of pitches for strikes and knows what he's doing on the mound. Jackson, on the other hand, has a mid-90s fastball and electric stuff, but is still trying to learn how to pitch. Buckel's more refined repertoire allows him to terrorize lower-level hitters, but because his stuff is more on the pedestrian side, he's more likely to hit a wall when he gets to the upper levels. Jackson, on the other hand, could potentially never have much success even on the lower levels, making him much more likely than Buckel to simply flame out, but he also offers a much higher ceiling than Buckel, should things click for him.
Jackson's repertoire right now is a live fastball that is his calling card, along with a curveball* and changeup that are both works-in-progress. Like a lot of the high school pitchers the Rangers seem to target, Jackson isn't very big, but he's athletic and has what Jason Parks describes as a "fast arm." Parks says his curveball is a potential plus pitch, and obviously, if he's going to have success at the major league level, he's going to have to have at least one of his offspeed pitches develop significantly.
* Is it my imagination, or do the Rangers have an inordinate number of righthanded pitching prospects whose primary breaking ball is the curve, rather than the slider?
What does 2012 hold for Jackson? My initial thought is that he starts the 2012 season in Hickory again, given his struggles there last year, although the organization may decide to challenge him by sending him to high-A Myrtle Beach. If Jackson progresses, he could be in the mix for a major league job by 2015.
What sort of ceiling does Jackson have? The stuff is good enough that he's seen as a potential #2 starter, but he's still a long way from actualizing that potential, as he needs to take significant strides with both his command and his offspeed pitches. Still, in terms of ceiling, Jackson is up there with David Perez on the short list of highest-ceilinged pitchers in the Rangers' lower minors.