Two Dodgers top prospects, one shortstop and one a second baseman who definitively stand taller than their competition in ways that have nothing to do with one’s pant-leg.
Drew Jackson (2nd base) and Gavin Lux (shortstop), have already contributed immensely toward their team’s Texas League Championship, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished in almost exactly 20 years to the day. Which leads me to ask, are these two young studs the future middle-infielders for our Los Angeles Dodgers? You decide…
Lux and Jackson provided serious run-support throughout the Texas League Championship in two equally effective, yet different styles of play.
Jackson, via the lightning-rod amount of electricity conducted through his spikes as he runs, cracking down the base-paths like a human sonic boom.
Lux sees the ball so well, you’d half expect to see a beach ball-sized baseball leaving the yard after snapping your neck around as fast as your body would allow, hoping to catch even the slightest glimpse of whatever the hell “that” was. Such a hellacious“thrrrrrrackkkk!!!!!” The likes of which haven’t been heard since Ken Griffey Jr.’s first arrival at the Kingdome, taking BP.
Marveling at Lux’s ability to count every red stitch on the ball while it’s being hurled 95+ MPH toward his head, chest, and neck, borders upon science fiction.
As if, for his last trick, he suddenly reveals that everything you see before your very own eyes are actually just smoke and mirrors and “Taw Daw!”
He’s no longer a 20-year-old prospect, he’s actually a 60-year-old czar wizard who moonlights upon minor league baseball stadiums, posing as incredibly talented baseball players.
However, an ominous feeling overcomes your bewilderment after hearing that bone-rattling “thrrrrrrackkk!!!!!” one more time.
You then suddenly realize that anyone within ears’ shot will also realize that there’s no magician and even more disturbingly, that noise you heard was real.
No longer does the thought of some old magician soothe your insecurities, instead, it’s more consistent with: “Welcome to Thunder-Dome,” because anything capable of making sounds like that deserves its own speaking-role in the next Mad Max flick.
Then you see the bat in Lux’s hand and it all makes perfect sense. This kid is The Natural.
There’s an exquisiteness in Lux and Jackson’s ways which, on their own, present themselves immediately.
When they’re together though, on the same team, and taking the same field, via shortstop and second, adjacent to each other in the order and the keystone, something else begins to take shape.
In a perfect world, the leadoff and #2 hitter(s) should optimally provide a spark. Such a spark should necessitate the rest of the team’s ability to focus entirely upon the task at hand, i.e., scoring runs.
Further, the optimal leadoff and #2 hitter(s) should be on base because that’s the spark.
Ready, willing, and able to score at any moment. In any equation, speed, plus hitting, plus baseball IQ, equals: runs scored. And runs scored provide wins. Jackson and Lux provide all of the above.
Throughout the Drillers’ 3-game sweep of the San Antonio Missions, Lux and Jackson both reached base at a staggering clip: .583 OBP.
In the short time allotted during their efficient disposal of the Missions, the dynamic duo successfully reached-base fourteen times in only three Championship Games.
Further, Tulsa scored 14 runs total, throughout the series (GM1-3 runs, GM2-6 runs, GM3-5 runs). Of those 14 runs, Drew Jackson and Gavin Lux combined to score half of those fourteen Tulsa runs.
Their picture should be shown in the “Dodgers Dictionary” under “premium run production.”
To win games and therefore championships, runs must be generated as consistently as the sun rises each and every day. As the Dodgers certainly understand, runs must come easy, and often. “Easy” is probably the wrong choice of words, however.
My analogy to the type of “ease” with which runs should come is more akin to a factory-line. Everyone has their own place, their own job, and if one link of the chain is broken, then the entire factory goes down in shambles.
This concept, of course, is idealistic on paper and we all know the truth behind the idea. Run production from the top-down is nowhere near as easy as it sounds.
However, when you have a leadoff and #2 hitter the likes of Gavin Lux and Drew Jackson (which is not often, but, for the sake of our argument), the equation becomes less and less complicated the more you allow your players to simply play. Here’s a bit more on the capabilities both youngsters possess.
Gavin Lux (SS)-
As close to a 5-tool shortstop as they come, an 18-year-old Lux was taken in the 1st round by the Dodgers in the 2016 draft. Now 20, Lux’s currently ranked #6 in mlb.com’s Dodgers’ “Top 30 Prospects.”
Despite the #6 ranking, I’m as high on Gavin Lux as I am on any prospect across baseball and I guarantee his ranking will be near the top if not the top spot available by this time and probably earlier, next year.
His ability to hit for average and power, mixed with his defensive prowess, a gun of an arm, and plus speed are all attributes that any prospect would be lucky to have.
A left-handed hitter and a righty thrower, his comp is certainly similar to a (then) 20-year old Corey Seager. Based upon his pedigree and age, I believe that his scouting grades via mlb.com are a bit conservative.
Actually, I think Lux has a legitimate shot at being better than Corey Seager. He’s definitely faster and arguably has a better arm.
However, Lux needs to work on his flexibility at short because he’s a bit stiff upon plays that require him to get down quickly on a ball. Seager is oh so fluid at short, yet he too can look stiff upon the basepaths.
It’s an interesting juxtaposition between the two. The fight for a future at short is an intriguing one, to say the very least.
Upon looking at every 20-year-old, SS, prospect across baseball throughout the year, I can easily say that Lux is as projectable as the whole lot of them, if not more-so.
The Texas League Championship Series only reinforces my belief. On the 3 game series, Lux hit to the tune of .417 AVG, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 4 R, with a 1.200 OPS, all out of the leadoff spot.
On the regular season, Lux hit: .324 AVG, .399 OBP, .514 SLG, equaling a .913 OPS, with 15 HR’s, 8 triples, 27 doubles, 85 runs scored, 57 RBI’s from leadoff, and 13 stolen bases through two levels of the minors (A+ and AA).
He’ll turn just 21 in late November and, with almost a full season of AA already under his belt, I doubt we’ll have to wait longer than two years max before we see him in The Show.
Drew Jackson (2B/SS)-
A player who reminds me a ton of Chris Taylor, and not solely due to his story, Jackson was the Mariners’ 5th round selection in the 2015 draft.
After a standout junior year at Stanford, Jackson was named the MVP of the Northwest League in his first year as a pro.
He hit .358 with an OBP of .432 in that first season with the Everett Aquasox and Seattle was smitten. However, Jackson didn’t take very well to his first full season of pro-ball and the M’s traded him to the Dodgers in 2017.
Labeled a “speed first, defense first” prospect, Jackson didn’t get a fair-shake (in my opinion) with Seattle just as Chris Taylor didn’t either. Their loss is the Dodgers’ gain.
Imagining “What If:” Projecting more AB’s for Jackson this Season-
Before I give you his 2018 regular season line, I want to show you his scouting grades coming into this season. For those who aren’t accustomed to the 20-80 scouting scale, you can reference mlb.com’s explanation.
A very quick explanation: the grades go from 20-80 (low-max). 50 is considered “average.” Now, per mlb.com’s Dodgers’ “Top 30 Prospects,” Drew Jackson (ranked: #19): Hit: 45, Power: 40, Run: 65, Arm: 70, Field: 55, Overall: 45.
Here are his 2018 regular season stats: .251 AVG, .356 OBP, .447 SLG, .804 OPS, 15 HR’s, 57 R, 22 SB, 46 RBI, through 342 AB’s.
The standout stats are his home runs, his steals, and the number of AB’s. Regarding his power, he should no longer be considered a “far below-average” power hitter. He only had 342 AB’s on the season which means he must’ve sat out with an injury for a while.
A player who is considered to have far below-average power doesn’t typically hit 15 HR’s in any regular season and especially if he’s missed 200 AB’s.
Jackson’s steals should also see a significant rise with a full season of at-bats. To use Corey Ray (OF Brewers power/speed prospect) as an example, Ray ended with 37 SB’s on the season.
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Take away 200 AB’s from Ray’s season and (I hate to speculate but) you’d get anywhere from 22-27. Ray’s a 60-grade speed and Jackson’s a 65, therefore Jackson’s season total for SB’s should be somewhere near 40+.
That should land Jackson in the 20/40 HR/SB range. I can’t name more than 5 players in the last 15 years who’ve had 20/40 seasons.
*(as of 9/20/18) Not one player in MLB is 20/40 right now and the two closest are Trea Turner and Starling Marte. Turner needs 3 more HR’s and 1 more SB, Marte needs 1 more HR and eight more SB.
I’m certainly not saying that Drew Jackson is the next Trea Turner, however, he has the tools necessary. Plus, minor league SB numbers are typically inflated, however, the HR numbers typically rise upon getting to the bigs. Six-to-one, half-dozen to another.
I certainly believe in these two players. Lux brings an A+ pedigree, the hit-tool, the IQ, and basically everything but the kitchen sink. Jackson has always been a grinder.
Much like Chris Taylor, Drew Jackson will work for everything before he accomplishes his goal(s). At Lux’s floor, I see numbers analogous to Drew Jackson.
At Jackson’s pinnacle, I see numbers analogous to the last 20/40 guy in MLB (whomever that may be). B.J. Upton certainly comes to mind yet, Jackson has more of a hit-tool than Upton, in my opinion.
Regardless, this much is clear, these two have hit the proverbial jackpot by finding each other in the Dodgers Organization. Together, they’ve already proven that (without much exaggeration) they can carry an entire team upon their backs, en route to winning a championship.
That claim has already proven itself. Hopefully one day we’ll watch them hoist a brand-new Dodgers Championship banner.
Jackson’s 25 and not getting any younger. However, my prediction is, he’ll break with the big league club absolutely no later than next September when the rosters expand and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he made the Show straight out of the Dodgers Spring Training.
His time is certainly near.
Lux is still practically a baby yet he’s already proven himself more than most agreed upon “prospects” who are up to 2-3 years his senior, at the same position.
My point is (along with Jackson), he’s already proven himself a winner, a supremely talented hitter, has a great glove, a rocket for an arm, he’s a gamer, and he fits the mold of a true-blue (no pun intended) “ballplayer.”
Sometimes a player’s “it” factor is simply the difference maker or that one last attribute that separates the greats from the rest. I genuinely believe that Gavin Lux is the former. It’s simply a matter of time now, no longer a matter of if.