So who do you think will be standing in center field for Detroit this April?
As Jackson approaches his 23rd birthday next month, the Tigers believe he's prepared to make the jump.
"We anticipate he'll be ready to play," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said this week. "There are a lot of guys that can play center field for us, but we anticipate he'll be ready."
"When you look at young center fielders, there's not very many of them in baseball that are ready to step in," Dombrowski said at the Winter Meetings. "We think that Austin Jackson is. We like him a lot.
"We are counting on him to make our big league club."
Jackson is solid defensively, of course, and should be able to prowl Comerica Park' outfield without causing much concern from Day 1.
However, you have to wonder about his flagging offense his previous two seasons. A .759 OPS in Triple-A last season (aided by a .390 BABIP) with a lack of power is a bit of a concern, though it is important to remember he was just 22 years old during that season. He was essentially a college junior or senior playing at the highest level of minor league ball.
The CHONE projection for his season has a .320 on-base percentage and .387 slugging average (for .707 OPS). It also pegs him at 16 steals.
Besides Jackson, fellow outfielder prospect Casper Wells (stats) should find himself in the competition to make the team out of spring training. Or will the Tigers find a veteran to hold down the fort at least to start the season?
Here's a 2010 AL Central WAR projections courtesy of Dodger Sims.
Author Xeifrank told me:
I have done this for every team/division in MLB. The AL Central is the 5th division that I have published results for. The projections I used to base the player WARs off of come from Fangraphs with some of my own adjustments. This is a somewhat casual excercise and of course not the final say on which team(s) should be favored to win the division.