Mariners take high school star Alex Jackson with No. 6 selection
Seattle also picks Canada’s Gareth Morgan at No. 74 on first day of MLB draft
SEATTLE — Alex Jackson might not yet have a position in professional baseball.
He has a bat the Seattle Mariners couldn’t pass up.
The Mariners selected the high school slugger with the No. 6 pick in the amateur baseball draft Thursday night in the hope he can be the right-handed power bat the club has sought.
Jackson was a catcher mostly in high school but the Mariners intend on starting him in the outfield.
“I’ve been playing multiple positions my whole life,” Jackson said. “It’s nothing extra ordinary that has been thrown my way. I’m looking forward to getting out there competing.”
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. Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik saw Jackson play in person once and came away believing his swing will eventually make him a standout at the major league level.
Jackson was rated by Baseball America as the top position player available entering the draft.
“We just follow our board, line them up and he was the guy at that pick,” Seattle’s director of amateur scouting Tom McNamara said. “We were pretty excited in that room.”
Seattle wrapped up the first day of the draft selecting 18-year-old outfielder Gareth Morgan from Blyth Academy in Toronto with the No. 74 overall pick.
The lingering question with Jackson will be his position after he spent most of his time in high school as a catcher. Seattle spent the No. 3 pick in 2012 on catcher Mike Zunino and he is already in his second season starting for the big league club.
So Jackson will become an outfielder to start, should he chose to sign with the Mariners and bypass his college commitment to Oregon. Zduriencik said Jackson has the athleticism and arm to be a corner outfielder — likely right field to start — and the bat is the most important component with Jackson.
Jackson has also seen some time at third base and said early in his high school career he realized the importance of versatility.
“With this kid’s bat potential and the fact that he throws so well — he’s got a terrific arm — let the bat do the talking for him,” Zduriencik said. “Playing him in the outfield to start with and see how things go. He can always go back behind the plate because he does have the ability to play there. We think the bat is going to play quicker and that’s a better way to get him out there and let him swing the bat and transition to the outfield and go from there.”
Zduriencik does not believe getting Jackson signed will be difficult, even with his commitment to Oregon to play baseball for the Ducks. Jackson is a client of Scott Boras.
“I think he wants to play,” Zduriencik said. “Anytime you take a high school player you always have that. … I do think that his desire is to play pro ball.”
© Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.