[Editor’s note: A total of 12 prospects received votes in our True Blue LA community ranking, which we are revealing in reverse order. Pitchers Clayton Beeter and Landon Knack were tied at No. 11, and outfielder James Outman was No. 10. Outfielder Jose Ramos was No. 9. Andre Jackson was tied for No. 7, with another player who will be revealed at a later date.]
We got to see a taste of what Andre Jackson can bring to the big league level in 2021 and the returns were mostly positive. Jackson pitched in three separate games for the Dodgers, and was largely the player we thought he might be given his limitations with command but a propensity to miss bats. How Jackson builds on that experience while also upping his workload will be the next major step in his development.
For a prospect that will turn 26 during the upcoming season, Jackson’s age would typically preclude him from ranking in the top 10 of a prospect list as deep as Los Angeles. His unique journey in the early part of his career and the pandemic layoff are enough to excuse the issue, and Jackson will likely graduate off the list this season as is.
Jackson’s arm talent alone warrants his lofty ranking. He’s shown more velocity previously, though his average fastball speed of 92.3 mph in 11⅔ big league innings was rather pedestrian. He gets a tremendous amount of arm-side run on the pitch and when he pitches in the mid 90s the ball looks to explode on hitters.
Jackson’s changeup became his out pitch over the last few seasons and he used it quite often at the big league level (almost 40 percent of his pitches). It still looks like his best pitch to miss bats, but it would be helpful if Jackson could find more consistency with his cutter-like slider to stay in the rotation.
Given the positives in performance we saw from Jackson in 2021, the biggest next step would be further refinement in his command at the upper levels. Jackson limited his walk rate with Double-A Tulsa, though his strike rate continued to hover in the lower 60-percent range. He’s athletic and still relatively new to pitching, so it’s not too late to see more gains in this category.
Command will be the ultimate definer of Jackson’s eventual big league role. The difference between starting and relief means arguably less to the Dodgers than it does any other big league club, given the interchangeability of so many of their pitchers. Still, for Jackson to see chances to start, he will need to make bigger gains in his strike rate while also finding more success with his slider (the two are directly correlated). Should he be able to add that third element for even a modest bump in the pitch’s usage (likely as an “under the hands” offering to right handed hitters), Jackson could eventually fill the role of a number four or five starter. Jackson’s utility in relief, though, is not insignificant. Should he settle in as a running fastball/tumbling change reliever, he would offer the bullpen more variety than the standard four seam-slider fare typically offered in relief.