Austin Jackson had a strong triple-slash line in 2017 thanks to some increased effectiveness against lefty pitchers (.352/.440/.574). Cleveland utilized him in a fourth-outfielder capacity expertly and set him up for the success that produced his finest offensive season since 2012 with Detroit. However, the lack of regular playing time mostly limited him to only formats and that is unlikely to change in 2018, as he is expected to occupy the short side of a center field platoon in San Francisco. Defensive metrics have graded Jackson as a minus defender in four of the past five seasons, so his at-bats figure to be limited against righties. When he was a full-timer, he was stealing 15-to-20 bases a season, but he has rarely run these past two seasons and it's difficult to see that changing as he enters his age-31 season. If your goal is to roster unsexy endgame skills, Jackson is your action.
Jackson could see time as the Giants' leadoff hitter against lefties in 2018, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area reports. The veteran outfielder seems to be locked into a platoon in center field with Steven Duggar. However, when a southpaw takes the hill for the opposition, it seems like the Giants like Jackson atop the batting order. This could get him more at-bats in games that lefties start, as well as more run-scoring opportunities batting ahead of Brandon Belt, Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey.
Jackson will occupy the short side of a center field platoon for the Giants this season, Buster Olney of ESPN reports. This assumes of course that the Giants are done making moves, but if the season began today, Olney says prospect Steven Duggar would get the starts against righties. Jackson hit .352/.440/.574 (.419 BABIP) in 141 plate appearances against lefties last season. While his .291/.345/.411 line against righties wasn't terrible, both lines are due for regression, so realistically he doesn't project to be a good option against same-handed pitching. Temper expectations for Jackson's playing time in 2018.
Jackson agreed to a two-year deal worth $6 million with the Giants on Monday, Jon Heyman of FanRagSports.com reports. Jackson had a solid year in a platoon role with the Indians last season. Over 85 games he hit .318/.387/.482 with 35 RBI and 46 runs scored. The 30-year-old will likely occupy center field for his new club, as Andrew McCutchen and Hunter Pence are in line to start in right and left field, respectively. Prospective owners may want to temper expectations in terms of Jackson's batting average, as last season's mark of .318 is well above his career average of .275.
Jackson is not in the lineup for Thursday's game against the Yankees. Jackson heads to the bench for Game 1 of the ALDS while Jason Kipnis will draw the start in center as the Indians go up against right-hander Sonny Gray. Since the beginning of September, Jackson has finally gotten into a groove at the plate, slashing .320/.400/.427 with 19 runs and six RBI. He will likely record some quality time in the field during this series, especially with left-hander CC Sabathia taking the hill for the Yankees on Friday, but is the odd-man out for Thursday's opener with Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall and Jay Bruce set to man the outfield.
Jackson went 2-for-3 with two runs, an RBI and a pair of walks in Cleveland's 10-1 victory over the White Sox on Friday. The veteran outfielder continues to have a career year at the dish, as his season slash line is up to .321/.390/.487 following this offensive display. If Michael Brantley (ankle) is unable to ramp up his activity enough to return from the disabled list in the coming days, Jackson seems to have earned plenty of playing time during the Indians' postseason run.
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