Pitchers and catchers have already reported to AmFam Fields of Phoenix for Spring Training with the Milwaukee Brewers, but there will soon be another hurler joining the group of non-roster invitees vying for a spot with the team when they head north to begin the regular season. Earlier today, the club announced a minor league deal with right-handed reliever Jay Jackson:
RHP Jay Jackson has been signed to a minor-league contract with an invitation to Major League camp.— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) February 15, 2019
Jay Jackson, who thrived pitching in Japan after stint with Padres, gets $1M on minors deal with Brewers if he’s in majors— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 15, 2019
Jackson, 31, was originally a ninth round pick by the Chicago Cubs back in 2008 out of Furman University. He was once considered to be a top-100 level talent as a prospect, reaching #98 on Baseball America’s list following the 2009 season in which he posted a 2.98 ERA and 127:46 K/BB across 127.0 innings spanning Class A-Advanced, Double-A, and Triple-A. Jackson’s affiliated career seemed to stall out after that; he spent the next three seasons pitching in Triple-A for the Cubs and was released after a 6.57 ERA in 86.1 innings with Iowa in 2012. He then bounced around with the Marlins, Pirates, and briefly, the Brewers, before landing with San Diego for the 2015 season. The Padres were the first team to switch Jackson solely to relief, and after authoring a 2.54 ERA in 63.2 innings with Triple-A El Paso, he was finally rewarded with his first trip to the major leagues.
Jackson’s stay in The Show was brief, lasting just six games and 4.1 innings. He yielded three earned runs with four strikeouts against one lonesome walk. The move to the bullpen allowed his stuff to tick up, though, and in that short sample Jackson’s average heater registered at 95.1 MPH. He paired that with a sharp, mid-80s slider. That was enough to generate overseas interest, and in December of 2015 Jackson was granted his release from San Diego and he signed with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan shortly thereafter.
Jackson spent three last seasons pitching in Nippon Professional Baseball and became one of the top relief pitchers on the circuit. All together for the Carp he logged 176.0 innings across 175 appearances with a 2.10 ERA and 192 strikeouts against 68 walks. His fastball continues to sizzle:
7th-fastest avg 4-seam velocity among all NPB pitchers last year https://t.co/ffNnBxjAfn— Kazuto Yamazaki (@Kazuto_Yamazaki) February 15, 2019
The Brewers have been one of the more active teams on the international market under the David Stearns regime, signing Eric Thames from Korea as well as involving themselves to varying degrees in the markets for Shohei Ohtani, Miles Mikolas, and Yusei Kikuchi. The signing of Jackson now becomes their latest foray into the Far East market, and he’ll now become a possibly high-upside addition to the club’s bullpen mix for the coming season. Jackson appears to have an uphill climb when it comes to making the team, though the fact that he is on a minor league deal means there is essentially no risk for the Brewers in bringing him into camp to compete.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference