Ryan Jackson was the St Louis Cardinals fifth round pick in the 2009 draft. He went to college at the University of Miami and was scouted heavily because of his defensive ability and offensive upside. He was named to the ACC All-Star team in 2008 and won the regional MVP award in the College World Series playoffs. He played exclusively at low A in 2009 and flashed the leather that got him scouted, but struggled to put up offensive numbers. In 2010, Jackson was called up to Quad Cities to start the year and responded well, hitting to a .272 average. The Cardinals were confident enough in his abilities to give him a midseason call-up to Palm Beach. His bat continued to play very well as he hit to the tune of .293 in a small sample size.
Jackson really broke out in 2011. The Cardinals started him in rookie league to make sure his bat was still sharp and he put up a .938 OPS. This earned him a promotion straight to Springfield. Jackson started to show a pop in his bat that hadn’t been present before. In 135 games, Jackson not only hit to a .749 OPS, but also belted eleven home runs.
Jackson was promoted to AAA Memphis to start the 2012 season and continued to hit well enough to complement his stellar defense. He kept his batting average in the .270 range and hit another ten home runs to continue showing the pop no one knew he had. He earned a promotion to the big league roster thanks to Tyler Greene‘s poor performance and Rafael Furcal‘s injury issues. He hasn’t really gotten a chance to prove anything at the major league level, as he has only appeared in ten games. It is iffy as to whether he makes next year’s team or not.
Ryan Jackson is really similar in many ways to Brendan Ryan. He is a defense first shortstop who only needs to be good enough offensively to not hurt the team. The difference between the two, though, is that Jackson has true perceivable offensive upside to go with his leather, whereas Ryan never really looked like he would rank as even a below average hitter. Jackson not only has a flashy glove that will get him back on to the big league team, but also solid contact hitting and a bit of pop. Whether he makes next year’s roster will depend on Rafael Furcal’s health. If Furcal is ready to go to start the season, the starting job is his. If not, Jackson enters the conversation. I don’t think he gets used as a utility bench option, as his bat isn’t consistent enough to be relied upon as a bench option.
I think Jackson raised his stock this season with a solid performance at AAA. I would not be at all surprised to see many publications vault him in to the top ten prospects.