Mariners’ top draft choice Alex Jackson all smiles after signing and taking batting practice
Prospect fresh out of high school will be sent to rookie league in Arizona
Seattle Times staff reporter
At first, Alex Jackson couldn’t stop smiling. The Mariners’ first-round choice of the 2014 draft was at Safeco Field on Monday. With all of his medical tests cleared, Jackson, the sixth overall selection, signed his professional contract and became a part of the Mariners’ organization.
He reportedly received a signing bonus of around $4.2 million, which would make anyone smile. But it was when he was ushered into the Mariners’ clubhouse and handed a uniform, including a No. 10 batting practice jersey with his name on the back, when his face lit up.
But that smile disappeared the moment Jackson stepped into the cage to take batting practice on the field with the Mariners.
Touted as the best high-school hitter in the draft, the 18-year-old Jackson was all business as he sprayed line drives all over the field.
“It’s been unbelievable,” he said. “It’s one of those experiences you can only have once in your life. It’s definitely an honor. I was very glad I was able to do it. Big thanks to the Mariners for giving me the opportunity. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Jackson admittedly had some butterflies stepping into the cage.
“You go up there with a little bit of nerves, but at the same time all the players are there helping you out,” he said. “It was great.”
Catcher Mike Zunino, who the Mariners selected with the third overall choice of the 2012 draft, talked with Jackson extensively before the pregame workout.
It was just two years ago that Zunino was in Jackson’s situation.
“It’s surreal,” Zunino said. “All of a sudden you go from high school or college to a big-league locker room. You are in awe because you know your career is just about to start and you don’t know the road it’s going to take. You are just so excited and you are trying soak everything in and hold on to those memories.”
Jackson eschewed a scholarship offer from Oregon to sign with the Mariners.
“It’s a tough decision,” he said. “It was two big opportunities in my life. I really do think I made the best decision. I know I’m in a happy place. I’m glad to be here. Everything went well.”
The Mariners were happy to get the deal done quickly and not go up to the deadline in July.
“I think we are all very excited,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “It was a good relationship. He wants to play. I think that was foremost. When you have a player that wants to play, that is great.”
Jackson will fly to Arizona on Tuesday to join the rookie league team there as a corner outfielder.
“I just want to get out there and play,” he said. “I just wanted to get out and play hard and have a good time and help my team.”
How long he stays there is up to his performance.
In past years, the Mariners’ top draft choices have started in short-season Everett. But those were players out of college. The organization does view Jackson as an advanced high-school player who should move up quickly, but they won’t rush him. If he tears it up in Arizona, he’ll move up.
But he could also spend all summer there as well, and it wouldn’t be a concern.
“You are always careful to put timetables on kids,” Zduriencik said. “Let him go out there and play. We think he’s going to move quickly, but just let him go out and play. His performances and how he advances will dictate how quickly he moves. But right now, we’ll let him get his feet wet in Arizona and see what happens from here.”
• Left-hander James Paxton will throw a flat-ground session Wednesday. If all goes well, he will throw a bullpen session Friday. It will be the first time he’s thrown from the mound since suffering a shoulder impingement in his recovery from a strained lat muscle.
• Multiple sources confirmed that the team’s top draft choice last year — D.J. Peterson — will get promoted to Class AA Jackson sometime this week. This move was expected considering the numbers Peterson was putting up in Class A High Desert. Peterson went 2 for 4 with a homer and a double in High Desert’s victory Sunday. He came into Monday hitting .327 with 23 doubles, 17 homers and 71 RBI and a .993 on-base plus slugging percentage. He has hit 15 of his 17 home runs this season in his past 36 games. Over his past nine games, he’s batting .462 (18 for 39) with nine runs scored, seven doubles, five home runs and 20 RBI.
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373
On Twitter: @RyanDivish