When Brian McCann was injured, he demanded that the Braves raise a catcher to fill their void. As a result, Alex Jackson was the only other receiver on the 40-man roster, and he received his first call to the major leagues. While this may only be a temporary call and the Braves are likely looking for other options, they certainly hope that this is not the last time we get to Jackson in the Braves uniform.
Jackson was the Mariners' sixth overall selection after high school in 2014, and he struggled to meet initial expectations. The Mariners had moved Jackson to the gardens to allow him to concentrate on developing his bat, but that development never came and he was traded to the Braves in the 2016-2017 offseason by Max Povse and Rob Whalen. Jackson was an immediate hit in the system after being transferred back to the receiver, hitting .301 / .359 / .575 with High-A Florida in his first 39 games. An injury put him on the disabled list, and he never returned to that level in 2017. Jackson had a great career in homers (19) and OPS (.808) and there was enough improvement with the glove to give the Braves hope he is the receiver of the future. 2018, however, was a complete disaster for most of the season.
Jackson's swing mechanics seemed to break and he struggled to activate the shots and drive them, and almost all the important statistical categories took a negative turn. His strikeout rate soared to over 30%, by far the highest of his career, his ISO went down again below .200, and almost at times he seemed lost at the plate. Jackson saw his power take off a little after his promotion to Gwinnett, but he was still not very good and is not a good enough defender behind the plate to make up for his problems with the bat. Jackson had a stellar spring training, with an average of .250 / .333 / .542 in 27 PA, and his walking levels have taken a step forward and by now it seems he has covered that flaw in his game.
In the grand scheme of his career so far, his 2017 season seems to be his outlier, but I would be surprised if he's still as bad as he was in 2018. He's a better player than that, and he had a bad season in general, but He did show signs of getting out of the depression towards the end of the season. From a more statistical point of view, he pulled the ball a little less in 2018 and his HR / FB received a significant blow compared to the numbers of his career. This is something that should not go back at this stage of your career and expectations should be that you return at a rate of approximately 15% HR / FB. That significantly affects his profile, effectively doubling the home run production of last season, and with Jackson there is even more in the tank if he can continue his maturation on the plate. It's safe to expect Jackson's bounce season this season, but at Gwinnett, not Atlanta.
Jackson improved last season by throwing the runners, which is far from a surprise given the strength of his arm, and one might expect that as he gets used to his mechanics (and get pitchers that are better to hold the runners) should see a previous example. average rate of robbery captured.
It seems that Jackson is never going to be an average hitter in the MLB, since he simply has too much swing and loses himself to be an average big hitter. However, if he can continue to increase his walking rates, he could see himself getting a decent base. The key to their offensive profile will be their ability to harness their power, and we have seen only glimpses of potential instead of any long-term success. He has a double gross power, but his inability to make contact is holding him back. If he can start to drive the ball more consistently, there is a profile for him in the major leagues. Their roof is somewhere between that of Evan Gattis or Carlos Santana, depending on their pace of walking, like low average men and below-average defenders who depend on hitting the ball out of the park to accumulate value. Jackson certainly has a higher defensive potential than those two and could see himself as an average defender some day, but at this moment his athleticism and general actions / receiving behind the plate leave something to be desired and there is no way to avoid the fact of missing those two. Years of defensive maturation after high school significantly delayed their growth. The receivers usually take to develop defensively as it is, so not having that necessary experience puts it behind others of their age. More realistically, he resembles guys like Devin Mesoraco or Rod Barajas: decent players in the big leagues and valuable backups, but not a guy to build a team.
Alex Jackson is presented as an emergency backup to cover Tyler Flowers. It should not be seen as anything more than that and expecting it to be a revelation for this team behind the plate is unfair. Could that player be one day? Absolutely. From this moment on, he is simply not that player and expecting him to have a significant run of success is extravagant. It certainly can be completed and is the best option at this time, but if the Braves are not looking outside the organization for a different option to support Flowers, they are not serving well. An interesting note to take home is that Jackson has devised and received all these star pitchers in recent seasons, so it should be a comfortable face behind the plate that receives many of these players.