This past off-season, the Yankees said goodbye to a number of players. The biggest name was outfield prospect Austin Jackson and the one who contributed the most to the 2009 was lefty reliever Phil Coke. Both of them ended up in Detroit via the Curtis Granderson trade.
I can’t help but wonder how these two will turn out in 2010. To help me gauge what role these guys will play, I contacted my Tigers source, Mike Rogers of the Tigers’ blog called Bless You Boys. In an email, Mike said this about Jackson:
AJax I think is almost assured to start in CF in Detroit, barring injury
Honestly, I think this is a mistake. This has nothing to do with Mike–since he’s not Jimmy L or Davey D.–but in my humble, non-expert opinion, Jackson needs more seasoning. I wrote a very detailed piece on Jackson back when I was writing for BBD which can be found here. In short, neither his plate discipline nor power still issufficiently developed, considering his high strikeout totals.
I don’t doubt that Jackson could be an average or better Major League regular, but I do doubt that he is ready to do so at the beginning of 2010. Jackson likely needs another half-season in AAA before he’s totally ready to assume an every day starting job.
Speaking of starting, Mike hinted that Phil Coke is likely bound for the bullpen, but could end up being in the rotation since they apparently have two question marks after Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello.
Mike also linked me to this article by Tigers beat writer Jason Beck about Coke potentially being the fifth starter for Detroit. The key quote:
“I think he’ll get the ball with a change to lengthen out in the spring,” Dombrowski said, “and get a chance to compete for the fifth spot.”
While it probably can’t kill the Tigers–or Coke–to try Coke out in the rotation, I don’t think it could last. His problems against righties and his tendency to give up the gopher ball do not bode well for a rotation trip. By the end of 2010, we’ll definitely see Coke back in the bullpen, even if he started at some point.
Regardless of which roles Jackson and Coke end up in during the 2010 season, I think we’ll all be rooting for them (except when they play the Yankees, of course) to succeed. Though we won’t see them reach their peaks in Pinstripes, we tracked their progress up through the minors so we’ll always feel that connection to them. I wish Austin and Phil the best of luck in Detroit.