Austin Jackson: Detroit Tigers Outfielder Is MLB's Most Underrated 2012 Player

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Austin Jackson: Detroit Tigers Outfielder Is MLB's Most Underrated 2012 Player
Rick Osentoski/US Presswire

All-Star Mike Trout has been the American League's main attraction since making his 2012 debut in late April.

Meanwhile, Austin Jackson is performing just as well for the Detroit Tigers this season.

Consider this tweet from veteran baseball writer Peter Gammons:

Did I miss Austin Jackson last night?Trout/Jackson:.341/.332, OPS .959/.953, R:57/54, RBI 40/38

— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) July 11, 2012

The similarities don't end there.

Trout's Los Angeles Angels are 9-14 without him in the lineup, and otherwise 39-24. The Tigers have posted a 36-27 record when Jackson starts, but only a 8-15 mark when he isn't out in center field.

Both are very young leadoff hitters. Both possess extraordinary defensive abilities.

Sensible MLB analysts believe that Trout is a legitimate candidate for the AL MVP award. So why no love for his statistical clone?

Jackson's success is overlooked by the Motown and national media, perhaps because they want to cover his superstar teammates. Detroit's roster includes a Cooperstown-bound slugger, this year's Home Run Derby champion and the world's best pitcher (Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Justin Verlander, respectively).

Who is the MVP of the 2012 Detroit Tigers?

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But wait—doesn't the 20-year-old kid share a dugout with Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo and Jered Weaver? That's a pretty impressive trio, too.

Jackson has dramatically improved from 2011. His strikeout rate is down, while his slugging and fielding percentages are exceptional.

Only four AL position players topped his 3.5 WAR from the first half, according to Baseball-Reference.com. He leads Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson and Josh Hamilton—the league's starting outfielders from Tuesday's All-Star Game—in that category.

This phenom deserves more respect.

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