Last week, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he did not know who would be atop his batting order. Ideally, he'd like a guy like center field prospect Austin Jackson up top, he said. But Leyland didn't want to throw a rookie with no major league at bats "to the wolves," either.
Two days later, maybe he's OK with throwing Jackson to the wolves after all, in spring training anyway.
Leyland said at FanFest on Saturday:
"I assume starting off that Jackson's going to probably lead off in Spring Training to see what he looks like. I'm not really sure who's going to hit second just yet. We'll take a look at it."
Hopefully Jackson looks good. Not that a team needs a traditional leadoff batter, but Jackson solves a few issues, not the least of which is making sure the black holes of the lineup can remain batting 7th, 8th and 9th. He should also be the fastest player in the Tigers' lineup and seems like a nice top-of-the-order guy who may not hit home runs but turns in his fair share of extra-base hits.
Jackson, for his part, knows he has pretty big shoes to fill in Detroit and says he is undaunted by it.
MLive's Steve Kornacki quoted him:
"The main thing I am hearing, ‘You’ve got big shoes to fill.’" Jackson said. "I heard that with the Yankees. They expected Mantle. I just hope people can see I’m trying to make a name for myself."
James Schmehl quotes Jackson more at The Cutoff Man, and has a great video to watch, too.
"This is the cream of the crop right here, but I think that I’ll be able to adjust," Jackson said. "I’ve got a chance to be around a lot of good hitters and pick their brains, so I think I’ll be able to adjust just fine."
I really hope Jackson is able to overcome a few problems in his game that concern scouts and Leyland, not just because the Tigers need to get some consistent production from center field this season to make up for deficiencies elsewhere. From everything I've seen of him, Jackson just seems to have the "it" factor like Granderson. You can't help but root for him.
If he is able to connect with the baseball on a consistent basis and play the defense he's capable of, I have a feeling he'll become a fan favorite in Detroit.
But first, he has to hit. Leyland is giving him the opportunity this spring, wolves or no wolves.