Yankees honor Kennedy, Jackson

Yanks honor Kennedy, Jackson

TAMPA, Fla. -- Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy were recognized on Saturday as the winners of the 2007 Kevin Lawn Award, emblematic of the top position player and pitcher in the Yankees' farm system.

Both players received their awards during a home-plate ceremony prior to the Yankees' game against the Rays at Legends Field.

"It's a good honor," said Jackson, a 21-year-old outfielder who has played at three levels in the chain. "I had a good season last year, and I worked hard in the offseason to be able to come back and prove to people that it just wasn't a fluke. I'll keep working hard, and hopefully it'll show."

Jackson combined to bat .304 (151-for-496) with 13 home runs, 59 RBIs and 33 stolen bases in 128 games at Class A Charleston, Class A Tampa and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2007.

In January, Baseball America ranked the outfielder as the No. 2 prospect -- and top position player -- in the Yankees organization. Jackson credited his improvements to a midseason tweak that allowed him to see offspeed pitches better and drive the ball more.

"I got my cage work in and fixed a problem before it got worse," Jackson said. "I worked with James [Rowson, a Tampa Yankees coach] and he pointed out some things that weren't allowing me to get to the inside pitch. Once I started doing that, it helped me out a lot in the Florida State League."

Kennedy, 23, saw action at four different levels in 2007 in his first full professional season, making it to the big leagues for three September starts.

In 26 combined games (25 starts) with Class A Tampa, Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Kennedy went 12-3 with a 1.91 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 146 2/3 innings, ranking second among Yankees Minor Leaguers in both ERA and strikeouts.

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"It's pretty cool, especially when we had Joba [Chamberlain], [Dan] McCutchen and [Alan] Horne," Kennedy said. "My curveball in college had a little bit of a hump in it. That was a really big thing in developing. There were a lot of steps."

Each player was be presented with a trophy designed by C & C Awards as well as a Burberry watch, courtesy of William Barthman Jewelers. The annual awards are dedicated to Kevin O'Brien Lawn, the son of longtime Yankees vice president and chief of operations Jack Lawn, who passed away in 1999.

The award was not the only acknowledgment of Jackson's ability this spring. He earned high praise from a Hall of Fame voice -- no lesser authority on big league baseball than Reggie Jackson, who was impressed by Austin Jackson's hustle during a game against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., and called the outfielder (no relation) "the best athlete in the organization."

"He moves like [Chargers running back] LaDainian Tomlinson," Reggie Jackson said. "He glides and moves like Devon White and Gary Pettis."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.