In his seventh big league season, Austin Jackson maintained a fairly prominent role in the White Sox outfield prior to a string of injuries. He got off to a horrific start to the season, but picked things up in May by getting on base at a .347 clip. Things went south quickly, however, as he was sidelined with a bout of turf toe in late May, and then suffered a torn meniscus just two games after returning from his prior ailment, putting an end to his season. With his season cut short, Jackson was forced to head into free agency with a middling .254/.318/.343 to go with no home runs and a career-low two stolen bases. The 2010 Rookie of the Year runner-up certainly seems to be on the decline, although he could work his way into a reserve outfielder role with the Indians after signing an NRI deal with them over the offseason. His fantasy value is limited until he can work his way into a semi-prominent role with Cleveland, though.
Jackson agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Indians, Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal reports. Jackson joined the Indians as a non-roster invitee and impressed the team enough to earn a major league roster spot. The 30-year-old will likely serve as a reserve outfielder in 2017.
The Indians have a roster decision to make on Jackson, who is in camp on a minor league deal. Jackson could activate his opt-out clause Sunday. Jackson has had a solid spring at the plate, but he might not be needed if Michael Brantley is finally back to 100 percent. It's possible he sticks around with the big club, he could accept a role with Triple-A Columbus or he might decide he has a better chance with another organization. Either way his fantasy future is rather murky.
Jackson's future with the Indians will depend on the health of left fielder Michael Brantley, who's recovering from shoulder surgery, Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com reports. When camp opened, it appeared the Indians could use Jackson to add outfield depth on Opening Day. That could change if Brantley's comeback continues progressing well like it has in recent days. "With Brantley back we probably wouldn't need the same number of plate appearances [from reserve outfielders]," general manager Mike Chernoff said. Jackson is coming off his own health issues that led to season-ending knee surgery last year. However, he appears healthy now and has done all he can to prove it so far in spring training, going 7-for-21 (.333) with a home run, two doubles, five RBI and four runs through seven Cactus League appearances. A decision on whether he makes the 25-man roster will come down to the wire.
Indians manager Terry Francona said Sunday that Jackson (knee) has been medically cleared to play as soon as Wednesday against the Mariners, Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com reports. Jackson, who signed a minor-league deal with the Tribe in January, has been eased into spring-training activity while recovering from June surgery to address a torn meniscus. He seems to be coming along nicely as he's increased his involvement in drills, and it sounds as though as he's good to go for unrestricted game action. If Jackson performs well in Cactus League play and shows his knee isn't an issue, he could end up settling into a platoon role in center field with Tyler Naquin to open the season.
Jackson (left knee) is no longer restricted with his hitting, but is still gradually working his way up to outfield-specific agility drills, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com reports. The thought has been that Jackson could be ready to race for an Opening Day roster spot, but that looks cloudier each week he continues to lag behind the other outfielders in camp. Manager Terry Francona said the veteran still has a ways to go before he'll be ready to compete with the group. "The biggest thing is he has to be able to make his cuts -- reacting," Francona said. "He's a good center fielder. That's part of his skill set. So, asking him to do it before he's ready isn't fair to anybody." Even if healthy and on the 25-man roster, Jackson is best-suited for deeper leagues at best.