With the way that Austin Jackson has played since he joined the New York Mets, is a bench role in 2019 part of his future?
When the New York Mets decided to sign outfielder Austin Jackson, they were taking a flyer on somebody that can help improve their outfield depth with Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce out of the lineup. Well, not only has helped their depth, but the 31-year-old has been one of the team’s best offensive players this month.
In 15 games, Jackson has a slash line of .419/.449/.609 with a pair of home runs and nine RBIs. His 15 hits in August are the most on the Mets this month and his 1.058 OPS also leads the team.
Jackson has the versatility to play all three outfield positions and he has brought some productivity to the bottom of the Mets lineup. He’s been a factor at the plate this season with runners on base as he is hitting .310 in those situations in 87 at-bats with the Mets and San Francisco Giants.
Yes, 15 games is a small sample size to determine a future role for next season. However, let’s take a look at the outfield situation in Flushing. Cespedes won’t start the season next year due to heel surgery, Juan Lagares has missed the bulk of the year due to toe surgery, and Bruce is more of an option at first base than in the outfield.
As for the minor leagues, the Mets do not have an impact prospect in their outfield that is going to push for playing time. With all the money invested into the outfield right now with Cespedes and Bruce, would New York spend again this winter when they already have Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo locked up for the outfield?
Jackson has been on six different teams since 2014 if you include the Mets. While he is a journeyman in baseball standards, he is a player that brings a good amount of speed to the field and can split time in center field with Lagares should the front office decide to go that route.
The Mets have plenty of power bats in their offense with a healthy Bruce, Conforto, and Todd Frazier among others. The key for them this winter is going to be for them to find guys that can put the ball in play and Jackson fits that mold.
There is one problem for Jackson and that is his defense in center field. According to FanGraphs, his defensive runs saved so far this season is -14 and that is an awful number. While Lagares could be the defensive replacement late in games, it is hard to trust a player in the outfield if you go off of that metric.
While the New York Mets will most likely turn to another outfield option this winter, Jackson’s play so far could open eyes for another team this winter or maybe he plays well enough to earn another one-year gig in New York.
Ultimately, for a struggling offense, Jackson is one of those players on a roll right now that Mickey Callaway and his staff can trust in a big situation. This year, that has been hard to come by.