Black MiLB Players #14: Andre Jackson
Andre Jackson is a 25-year-old starting pitcher in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization from Tuscon, Arizona. Jackson was one of the top high school baseball players coming out of the state of Arizona, which is one of the hotbeds for top-tier high school baseball players in the Western hemisphere. A two-way player, he played centerfield and pitched in the starting rotation in high school. He was drafted in the 32nd round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of Cienega High School in Vail, Arizona, but opted to attend the University of Utah where he had a scholarship. He continued to be a two-way player at Utah, where scouts were enamored by the potential he showed on the mound in the short amount of time he played. He pitched 12 games, logging 20.2 innings as a Ute where he had a 6.53 ERA with a strikeouts per nine innings above ten and a walks per nine innings at around five. The important standout traits that materialized in his cameo as a reliever included upper-tier velocity on his fastball, a preferable frame, and good athleticism.
During his time at Utah he was deemed by pundits as a two-way player who was extremely raw as a pitcher, better at the moment as a position player, but potentially had a higher ceiling as a pitcher. Already on the radars of MLB front offices, as he was already drafted once out of high school, there was the appeal in his profile as a slow-burn development project. Jackson missed the 2017 college season due to UCL reconstruction via Tommy John surgery, disappointing many who were looking forward to seeing the interesting two-way player with the live arm. After two years as a two-way player, he was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 12th round(370th overall) of the 2017 MLB Draft. He agreed to a professional contract with Los Angeles and put his signature on the dotted line for a 247,500 dollar signing bonus.
Jackson’s professional career started with the Los Angeles Low-A affiliate in the Midwest League during the 2018 MiLB season, where he pitched ten games before being moved to the Arizona Rookie League for four starts before being promoted back to Low-A. He dominated in the AZL, with a 3.44 ERA, 15 K/9, and1.9 BB/9 in 18.1 innings. He pitched 49.2 innings in a Great Lakes Loons uniform, putting up a 4.35 ERA with an 8 K/9 and 7 BB/9. The next season the right-hander took multiple steps forward, as he put up a 3.06 ERA in 114.2 innings pitched, where he struck out 141 batters, walked 57, and allowed seven hits per nine innings pitched.
Many were skeptical about whether he could be a starting pitcher or not when he was drafted, and he answered those questions by starting almost every game he played during the first two years of his professional career. While the command issues carried over from college naturally, many were impressed by how advanced he became in such a short time.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic causing a complete cancellation of the 2020 MiLB season, the former two-way player spent his time at the alternate site with the rest of the top prospects and backups/depth pieces of the Dodgers organization. Subsequently, he was placed on the 40-man roster of the Dodgers after the 2020 season was over. When MiLB resumed for the 2021 season the pitcher with the 80-grade afro began the year with the Los Angeles Double-A affiliate, starting 13 of the 15 games he pitched and throwing a total of 63.1 innings. He had a 3.27 ERA, 10.66 K/9, and 2.84 BB/9 against the 253 batters he faced. He was promoted to Triple-A later in the season, where he pitched 26.1 innings across six appearances, five of those being starts. He had a 5.13 ERA, his strikeout rate per nine innings dipped by three, but his walk rate only went up by one unit. During the 2021 MiLB season, he was selected to represent the Dodgers organization in the MLB All-Star Futures Game.
Despite this, he was promoted to the Los Angeles Dodgers and made his MLB debut on August 16th, 2021 versus the Pittsburgh Pirates. He threw four innings of relief, allowed zero runs, two hits, five strikeouts, and four walks. He made a total of three relief appearances at the end of the year for Los Angeles, throwing 11.2 innings with a 2.31 ERA, 10 strikeouts, six walks, and one save.
Andre Jackson is 6'3'’, weighs 210 pounds, and is a starting pitcher that throws right-handed. He has long arms and long legs on an athletic and lean frame that can handle the rigors of repeating pitching mechanics. He has some trouble repeating delivery but has consistently refined and improved. Not due to lack of ability, more so a lack of time focusing on just pitching.
He throws a four-seam fastball that runs from 92–98 mph and sits 93–95, a changeup with a lot of fade that is considered his out pitch, an 11–5 curveball, and a cutter-slider hybrid. He winds up from the first base side of the rubber, starting with his hands over his head as he brings his knee up. He steps into a traditional 3/4ths delivery, showing some extension due to his long frame. He finishes on a bit of a wild follow-through but shows a loose and quick arm consistently.
The four-seam fastball has a sizeable amount of rise and arm-side run to go along with its velocity. The cutter and slider play to the quadrants of the glove-side of the strike zone along with the fastball. The slider-cutter moves in a similar fashion to the curveball, but with a lot less movement on each plane but with more velocity to make it distinct enough to give an opposing hitter another legit look to consider. The curveball has a sizeable amount of bite vertically and horizontally, in a fashion similar to Charlie Morton’s. I think it has a lot of potential, especially if he can improve his ability to repeatedly throw it in competitive spots. The changeup provides a change of speed/rhythm with the deception of fastball arm speed while fading towards the arm side to keep lefties honest.
He has consistently refined his mechanics and his pitching repertoire during his professional career, as many have marked his gradual improvement in a variety of facets of the game. His mechanics were more efficient and repeatable, which helped with command, stuff, velocity, and durability. His pitches improved, as his fastball gained velocity and life/run. The development staff helped him develop his slider-cutter hybrid also.
Andre Jackson is a part of a wave of talented Black pitchers in professional baseball that were converted from being full-time position players or two-way players into full-time pitchers, along with the likes of Xzavion Curry and Tahnaj Thomas. Jackson deserves some leeway as an individual that struggles with his command but has made exponential leaps and bounds while spending a fraction of the time tinkering with the art and science that pitching is when compared to his peers. He has the sustainable statistical performance and underlying stuff to go with the growth, but it all boils down to consistency. Whether it's pitching mechanics or locating his arsenal competitively from first pitch to last, he has to find more consistency if he wants to find success and a long career at the MLB level.