SEATTLE — Alex Jackson was understandably nervous being thrust into a batting practice group that included Robinson Cano.
At some point in the future, the Seattle Mariners hope Jackson and Cano are residing in the same lineup.
“You go up there with a little bit of nerves but at the same time all the players are having fun helping you out, so it was great,” Jackson said.
The Mariners signed Jackson on Monday, locking up the No. 6 overall pick in this month’s draft with plenty of time for him to get experience this summer.
The 18-year-old Jackson was regarded as the best high school position player available in the draft. Jackson was a star at Rancho Bernardo High School near San Diego. He batted .400 with 11 home runs in his senior season after hitting 14 homers as a junior and 17 as a sophomore. His 45 career homers are tied for the most in CIF San Diego Section history.
He was drafted to be a young bat the Mariners can develop and someday become a slugger for the big league club. His career is getting started right away. Jackson will report to the Mariners’ rookie level team in Peoria, Arizona on Tuesday.
Jackson could have decided not to sign and stayed with his college commitment to play at Oregon. But Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said Jackson wanted to play immediately. Hence the quick negotiations and quick assignment to rookie ball.
“This kid has a very unique skill set; the ability to hit the baseball as a hitter and have power,” Zduriencik said. “It was a good relationship, he wants to play. I think that’s foremost over everything.”
The lingering question with Jackson will be his position after he spent most of his time in high school as a catcher. He’s expected to start his career with the Mariners as an outfielder. Jackson said he’s comfortable playing in the outfield having played there when he wasn’t catching in high school. Ultimately the position won’t matter as long as Jackson’s ability at the plate projects as Seattle hopes.
“I’ve played outfield before so it’s not a huge adjustment,” Jackson said. “So I’m just looking forward to getting out there, playing hard and helping get (wins).”