Mariners' top prospect Jackson adds to accolades

Mariners' top prospect Jackson adds to accolades

SAN DIEGO -- Alex Jackson doesn't turn 19 until Christmas Day, but the Mariners' 2014 first-round Draft choice already finds himself garnering awards as one of baseball's top young prospects.

The San Diego native was honored Tuesday night as Baseball America's High School Player of the Year at a banquet at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, site of the Minor League Winter Meetings.

"It's definitely an honor to be put in a category like that," said Jackson, an outfielder/catcher who is ranked as Seattle's No. 1 prospect by MLB.com. "There's a tremendous amount of high school talent this year in the Minors. To be considered one of the top in the class that came out is truly an honor. I'm very thankful."

Jackson is also grateful to be back to full health after breaking the orbital bone below his eye when he got hit in the face with a line driving during an Arizona Rookie League game in July during his debut professional season.

The youngster returned after a month's absence to play the final week of the season and was still named the league's MVP after batting .280 with two home runs, 16 RBIs and an .820 OPS in 23 games.

"Everyone is real excited about him," said Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik. "We think he's a legit hitter. He has a presence about him as a player. When he got out in the organization and we watched him compete, it was exciting to see. Here is a kid who is still learning and converting to the outfield, but there were nice signs he showed during the year, and the fact the league voted him the top player is pretty impressive."

Jackson will be invited to the Mariners mini-camp for top Minor League players in February in Peoria, Ariz., then eventually be assigned to a club after showing where he's at in Spring Training. Zduriencik said no decision has been made at what level the youngster will begin the season, but he's optimistic that Jackson will ascend quickly through the system.

"It'll be interesting to watch," Zduriencik said. "I don't have a crystal ball, but I do think this kid is going to be a good player and good hitter, and it's probably going to happen quicker for him than most."

Jackson played catcher in high school, but was converted to the outfield by the Mariners and was developing well until he lost a line drive in the lights as he ran to the right-center gap. He said he's working out now, getting ready to play his first full season of pro ball.

"It's definitely going to be a challenge," he said. "I've never played baseball that long, continuously. But I'm looking forward to it. I love playing baseball and I get to do what I love for a job."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.