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Broncos’ latest first-rounder?

03/17/2014, 8:42pm PDT
By John Maffei

Rancho Bernardo catcher expected to go high in pro baseball draft

Alex Jackson could be RB’s eighth player to be drafted in the first round.

Playing in three major league ballparks last summer — Petco Park, Wrigley Field and the Metrodome — Alex Jackson got a little taste of life in the big leagues.

And the big leagues are his ultimate goal.

But the Rancho Bernardo High catcher, one of the top prep baseball prospects in the country, said he’s not afraid of continuing his career in college.

Some time before June 5, the first day of the pro baseball draft, and the final signing day July 18, Jackson will have to make a decision.

Should he take millions of dollars from perhaps the Cubs, who pick fourth, the Twins, who pick fifth, or the Padres, who pick 13th and might not have a chance at him? Or should he play for the Oregon Ducks, his college choice?

“I’ll be honest,” Jackson said. “I’m not even thinking beyond this season. I know it’s a cliché, but I’m taking things day-by-day. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.”

His raw power — 36 home runs in three seasons at RB, including 17 as a sophomore and 14 last season — draws dozens of pro scouts to Broncos games. One homer in last year’s San Diego Section Open Division title game hit so hard off the right-field foul pole at USD’s Fowler Park that it bounced back to first base.

His power arm, throwing out 26 of 51 base stealers, an outstanding 51 percent, draws raves. His home-to-second time is 1.8 seconds, better than the major league average.

“His throws have a second level,” said one pro scout.

MaxPreps has Jackson rated as the best high school prospect in the country. Baseball America has him No. 2. Perfect Game has him No. 3.

“At times, the hype is overwhelming,” Jackson said. “But Coach (Sam) Blalock calms me down.

“I’ve gotten pretty good at blocking things out, focusing. My priority is my team and winning games.

“I’ve played in the CIF championship game three years (winning the Open Division last season and the Division I title in 2011). All were great experiences.

“Every championship experience was unbelievable. I want that feeling one more time.”

The Broncos are 3-0 and ranked No. 1 in the county heading into today’s home game with El Capitan in the Hilltop Lolita’s Tournament.

Blalock has had 23 players drafted in his 23 seasons at RB, including seven first-rounders. Asked where Jackson fits on that list, Blalock paused.

“I don’t like doing that,” Blalock said. “Answering that would be kind of like naming your favorite child.

“I will say that AJ has great skills, the sheer raw power that the pros love. He has been a pleasure to work with.”

Here is what the pros say about the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Jackson:

• Best high school hitter in the draft. Power body, which unleashes plus bat speed. Drives the ball up the middle with elite exit velocity.

• Some of the best raw power in this draft. Can see him hitting 30 HRs or better at the big league level. Don’t see him as a high-average guy, more like .260-.270, but wouldn’t be totally shocked if he exceeds.

• Ultimate value will be decided by defensive position. In the end, his bat projects to play any position. He could hit .280-30-100 in the middle of the order for a contending team. He’s one of the top position prospects in this class, and there are only a handful of high-impact bats this year. Don’t see him getting out of the top 10 in June.

• Catching prospects normally come in one of two forms: Throwers who can’t hit or hitters who can’t throw. Jackson is the rare backstop who does both at the highest level.

“I love catching,” Jackson said. “The catcher is always in the game. He’s in on every play. He’s the only player who sees the entire field.”

Jackson doesn’t call his own pitches at RB.

That task belongs to pitching coach Mark Furtak.

“But I think along with him,” Jackson said. “I’d say 98 percent of the time, I’m in sync with what he’s calling.”

Since last June, in addition to the big league ballparks, Jackson also has played in three major league spring-training sites.

He has played in national showcases, with and against the best prep players in the country.

“The summer was very enjoyable,” Jackson said. “Toward the end, though, time changes and travel started to take a toll.

“But I was playing the sport I love, so it was never a drag.

“I embraced every stop. I have memories I’ll cherish forever.

“I love that the high school season is here, but honestly, I wish I could do summer again.”


Year / G / AB / Runs / Hits / 2B / 3B / HR / RBI / Avg.

Fr. / 33 / 101 / 25 / 38 / 15 / 1 / 5 / 27 / .376

So. / 33 / 95 / 37 / 38 / 5 / 1 / 17 / 36 / .400

Jr. / 35 / 108 / 50 / 37 / 8 / 0 / 14 / 27 / .343

Totals / 101 / 304 / 112 / 113 / 28 / 2 / 36 / 90 / .372


Name / Pos. / Year drafted / Round / Team

Jaime Jones / OF / 1995 / 1st (6) / Marlins

Ryan Gillespie / RHP / 1995 / 18th / Pirates

Josh Pascarella / RHP / 1995 / 62nd / Astros

Jason Berni / RHP / 1997 / 35th / Red Sox

Hank Blalock / 3B / 1999 / 3rd / Rangers

Matt Wheatland / RHP / 2000 / 1st (8) / Tigers

Scott Heard / C / 2000 / 1st (25) / Rangers

David Giogris / OF / 2000 / 8th / Padres

Haas Pratt / 3B / 2000 / 18th / Red Sox

Justin Dowdy / LHP / 2001 / 18th / White Sox

Ryan Bailey / RHP / 2001 / 31st / Angels

Cole Hamels / LHP / 2002 / 1st (17) / Phillies

Jake Blalock / 3B / 2002 / 5th / Phillies

Scott Robinson / 1B / 2002 / 7th / Astros

John Peabody / OF / 2003 / 10th / Pirates

Danny Putnam / OF / 2004 / 1st (36) / A’s

Johnny Drennen / OF / 2005 / 1st (33) / Indians

Jon Dutton / LHP / 2005 / 24th / Dodgers

Tim Peabody / RHP / 2005 / 44th / Diamondbacks

Allan Dykstra / RHP / 2008 / 1st (23) / Padres

Gosuke Katoh / 2B / 2013 / 2nd / Yankees

James Dykstra / RHP / 2013 / 6th / White Sox

Parker Bugg / RHP / 2013 / 23rd / Orioles

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