Since a young age Zach Jackson
knew how his path in baseball would project. The youngster grew up in Cranberry, Pennsylvania and fell in love with stepping in the plate and swinging the bat. As a prep athlete Zach attended Seneca Valley High School and played first base, the outfield as well as pitching for the team. On the mound the left-hand pitcher compiled a career record of 25-4 but he set a school record at the plate with twelve career home runs.
"I was a left-hander and could always throw hard since a young age, so whether I wanted to or not my path was the mound, especially when I grew into my body and became 6'5. A 6'5 left-hander, who can throw hard, will find himself on the mound one way or another."
After his junior season of high school Jackson was on cruise control and appeared to be on his way to being selected in the early rounds of the 2001 draft, but he struggled a little his senior season and many scouts predicted he would slip a little. Nobody would expect what ended up happening, and that was slipping all the way to end of Day 2
. Jackson was selected four picks before the conclusion of the draft by the Chicago White Sox as a left-hand pitcher.
There was no doubt in Jackson's mind that he would attend college and headed to the University of Louisville
. His overall record at Louisville was 17-9 and ranked third on the all-time wins list. Jackson, however, did not feel he was progressing there, so he transferred to Texas A&M
"It just wasn't the right fit for me. I had an incredible opportunity there, but I just wasn't making the improvements that I wanted personally in my game, and needed a change of atmosphere."
Before start the season, Jackson pitched in the Cape Cod League and went 6-0 with a 1.88 ERA. The change of atmosphere really helped Jackson. In his first start for the Aggiest he threw a seven-inning no-hitter. He finished the year 10-5 with a 3.55 ERA, while striking out 110 batters in 104 innings, and only walking 24. Jackson throws a two-seam and four seam fastball in the 87-92 range and has a slider, changeup and cutter to round out his repertoire.
After being projected to be selected in the middle of the first round, Jackson slipped all the way to 32nd, where the Blue Jays had a supplemental pick, and did not hesitate to select the lefty. Jackson signed on July 30, 2004 and made his way to Auburn to pitch in the NY-Penn League.
This season Jackson opened up with the Dunedin Blue Jays of the Florida State League and was mediocre in his first three starts. Jackson pitched 15.2 innings, allowing 16 hits, and 8 runs.
"I was settling for that, and just accepting everything that was happening up to that point" said Jackson.
Then came April 25 and Jackson was on the mound facing the Lakeland Tigers, in a start he called a ‘wake-up call.' Jackson allowed nine runs and ten hits in three innings of work, and really kicked himself after that appearance and began to shape up.
"That was the worst outing of my life" the left-hander said. "It served as a wake-up call for me, and it was a blessing in disguise. I was settling for that. From that point on I went to the mound with a different mindset and a different attitude. I told myself that I will leave everything out on the field, and from now on I would try to better my previous start for the rest of my career."
Jackson did just that. He picked up a victory in his next start allowing just two hits and striking out seven batters in seven innings of work. He would go on to win six straight games tossing 40 innings, allowing 30 hits, just 3 runs, 1 walk and struck out 33 batters. His quest at Single-A was completed and standing at 8-1 with a 2.88 ERA, Jackson was promoted to Double-A New Hampshire.
"For me to get called up this quick was a true blessing and I am very happy and excited that it happened this quickly."
Jackson made his first career Double-A start against Portland, the top hitting team in the Eastern League, and picked up the victory tossing eight innings and allowing just one run on five hits. He did not issue a walk and struck out two batters in the process. Jackson has notched seven consecutive victories in 2005 and has allowed just four runs in forty-eight innings, and has not allowed a walk in his last three starts (24 innings). Now that he is at Double-A Jackson wants to go back to being a student, but this time study the game of baseball, and get mentally smarter.
"I just want to study the game a little more, study the hitters a little more, and get a feel for what these teams like to do since I will see them several times this season. Overall I just want to get smarter as a pitcher and grow mentally. Physically I am looking to control my two-seamer better, but my biggest focus is to be a student of the game."
The Sunday Spotlight is a special feature on InsideTheDome were we profile some of the biggest prospects in the Jays system. Our first spotlight was on Casey Janssen earlier this season. Today we spotlight left-hand pitcher Zach Jackson. Our premium subscribers get a chance to read more about Jackson and get a sense of the type of pitcher and person he is.