It’s easy to root against Brandon Jacobs this week. No one in New England wants to see him rush for too many yards or score too many touchdowns. What people don’t realize is that there is a prospect on Boston’s outfield named Brandon Jacobs, an outfielder who has been rising up the ranks of the minor leagues quickly.
Jacobs is one of many promising outfield prospects in Boston’s minor league system, and that may be his problem. In single A Salem last year, he hit for .303, posted a solid .881 OPS, and stole 30 bases. These are great numbers for a kid who’s only 22 years old, the only question is, can the Red Sox find room for him?
Drafted in the tenth round of the 2009 amateur draft, Jacobs has already shown more skill than one would expect from his position, but it still may not be enough to make an impact at the major league level. He still needs to work on his plate discipline, taking only 43 walks in 442 at bats last season in single A Greenville. It seems like all prospects could use a lesson in this discipline, but at the end of the day it’s time that effects this skill the most. The more plate appearances a prospect receives, the better discipline they can gain.
Perhaps the most interesting note on Jacobs is the fact that last year he stole thirty bases. This seemingly came out of nowhere. The year before in single A Lowell, he stole only 4. So to jump 26 bases certainly has to mean something. Perhaps he truly improved on the bases, but more likely he was just given more opportunities on the base paths, for it’s not merely intuition that improves one’s rate by over 25 bases.
The real problem for Jacobs is that he’s blocked by Carl Crawford in left field for the foreseeable future. It’s unlikely that Boston will bench Crawford for anyone, and with right field filled with the Cody Ross/Ryan Sweeney platoon, it seems unlikely that Jacobs has any chance in the near future,
On top of that, Jacobs is seemingly blocked by not only major leaguers, but also talented prospects in Boston’s farm system. Ryan Kalish has already has a taste of the big leagues in 2010, and it’s not a stretch to imagine him getting the start in right field by the end of the 2012 season, assuming that he recovers well from his shoulder surgery. After that, it’s essentially Bryce Brentz who is better than him, but that is still two major prospects blocking Jacobs’ developments to the major leagues.
Would the Sox be better off trading Jacobs to a team for a decent starter? Well, they certainly could use a starter, the only question is, would the White Sox take Jacobs in exchange for Gavin Floyd? Probably not, and if that’s the case, Boston is probably better off keeping Jacobs for depth in the outfield. There’s always the off chance that someone talented, like Bryce Brentz or Ryan Kalish is traded for a starter, and in that case, Jacobs becomes one of the better offensive player’s in the Red Sox’ minor league system.
That being said, it seems unlikely that Jacobs will leave the Red Sox’ system. Despite the minor league depth, Jacobs will most likely start at the AA level this season. If he can continue to be the threat on the base paths that he was this past season, then it is inevitable that he will continue to rise up the ranks. Speed is an asset not found in every outfielder, so to be able to steal 36 bases in a season is something special. Sure, Jacoby Ellsbury is able to do it regularly, and hopefully Carl Crawford is able to as well as the years move on, but Jacobs could be in that starting outfield mix as well in just a few years. Ryan Kalish is promising, Bryce Brentz is promising, but neither of them offers the speed that Jacobs demonstrated last season.
The Red Sox may eventually sign Andre Ethier or even Josh Hamilton next offseason, but in the meantime they have Cody Ross and Ryan Sweeney, Obviously, there are more ideal options than the two of them. If Brandon Jacobs can continue to rake in the minors, then he will be in the mix for that spot. Again, he has to compete with stars Bryce Brentz and Ryan Kalish, but something tells me that Jacobs is all for the challenge. Yes, his namesake will be rooted against this week, but in the years ahead, Boston will more than likely be cheering for the name as he rakes his way out of the minors.