Cubs outfielder Brett Jackson ranked among Baseball America‘s top 100 prospects in 2010, 2011, and 2012, but the big knock against him was a very high strikeout rate and questions about whether he’d be able to hit for a decent batting average in the majors.
This year Jackson showed very good power at Triple-A, but hit just .256 with 158 strikeouts in 106 games and then struggled mightily with the Cubs, whiffing in 59 of his 120 at-bats.
Carrie Muskat of MLB.com reports that Jackson “has completely overhauled his swing” this offseason in an effort to cut down on the strikeouts, working with manager Dale Sveum and various Cubs coaches.
“I think he’s got a good base to work with going into the rest of the winter and going into spring training to understand the art of hitting, so to speak,” Sveum told Muskat. “Sometimes it gets lost and taught the wrong way.”
Obviously if Jackson can cut down on his strikeouts while not losing the other skills that made him a top prospect in the first place that would be great for the Cubs, but it’ll be interesting to see if having a 23-year-old “overhaul” his swing leads to unintended changes that hurt him overall.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.