MLB Prospects: 10 Prospects Who Could Be the Next Bo Jackson
Growing up during Bo Jackson’s rise to fame, I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to watch him excel in both baseball and football. To this very day, he is, without a doubt, the single greatest athlete I have ever seen.
Owner of the fastest 40-yard dash ever recorded at the NFL Combine (4.12 seconds), Jackson won the 1985 Heisman Trophy after an illustrious career as Auburn’s tailback. Although he excelled on the diamond, he wasn’t considered a future star as he was on the gridiron.
Selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1986 draft, Jackson lost his eligibility after the team took him on a private plane ride deemed to be illegal by the NCAA.
Shortly thereafter, he signed a professional contract with the Kansas City Royals—who drafted him in the fourth-round of the 1986 draft—and began his career in professional baseball.
However, because he didn’t sign with the Buccaneers in 1986, Jackson was once again draft-eligible in 1987 and was selected by the then-Los Angeles Raiders in the seventh round. Encouraged to continue playing both sports professionally, Jackson made his NFL debut later that season.
At the same time, the outfielder’s baseball career also began to flourish, as he hit 22 home runs with 53 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 1987, his rookie season.
Bo’s best season came in 1989 when he batted .256/.310/.495 with 32 home runs, 105 RBI and 26 stolen bases with Royals, and appeared in his only all-star game.
In 1990, Jackson sustained a career-threatening injury while playing with the Raiders, as an awkward tackle led to a dislocated hip and subsequent nerve condition that robbed him of his once lightening-quick speed.
Although he returned to the baseball field for four more seasons (1990-1994) with the Chicago White Sox and California Angels, Jackson’s career was simply never the same.
His career set a precedent for dual-sport athletes, creating a fear that an injury would derail a player’s future and cost their respective team a significant investment. These days, players who hope to attend college and continue careers in multiple sports are offered a flattering contract to pick one sport over the other.
So, as we look at today’s minor league scene, are there any prospects that have the potential to be the next Bo Jackson?
The answer is simple: no. I seriously doubt we will ever be treated to an athlete as special and talented as Bo. However, there are a host of prospects who once starred in another sport, and even a few who have remained steadfast in their pursuit of a career in multiple sports.
10. Amir Garrett, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
Rookie: 0-2, 11 IP, 6.55 ERA, .267 BAA, 12 K/11 BB (6 G; 5 GS)
A top-100 basketball recruit in 2011, Amir Garrett is the rare basketball-baseball two-sport athlete.
A 6’6” left-hander, Garrett was drafted by the Reds in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft and subsequently signed for a $1 million signing bonus spread out over five years. At the same time, the Reds will allow the forward to pursue his basketball career, honoring his commitment to St. John’s.
9. Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit Tigers
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Okay, so he's not a prospect by any means. But it's not as if the 25-year-old is a veteran ballplayer just yet.
During his senior year of high school in Texas, Jackson was ranked as one of the top point guards in the nation in addition. Committed to play both baseball and basketball for Georgia Tech the following year, the outfielder was selected by the New York Yankees in the eighth round of the 2005 draft.
And all it took to be lured away from a career on the hardwood was a modest $800,000 signing bonus.
8. Dylan Cozens, OF/1B, Philadelphia Phillies
Courtesy of MiLB.com
Rookie: .266/.370/.431, 13 XBH, 16 RBI, 7 SB, 32 K/18 BB (34 G)
With a monster 6’6”, 235-pound frame, Cozens had committed to the University of Arizona to play both football (defensive end) and baseball for the Wildcats.
A promising left-handed power hitter, Cozens was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the second round (No. 77 overall) of the 2012 draft and began his professional baseball career after inking a $659,800 signing bonus.
7. Brandon Jacobs, OF, Boston Red Sox
Courtesy of MiLB.com
High-A: .271/.327/.425, 34 XBH (10 HR), 52 RBI, 13 SB, 97 K/25 BB (88 G)
Coming out of a Georgia high school in 2009, Jacobs could have been playing tailback behind Cam Newton for Auburn the following year. Instead, the 6’1”, 225-pound outfielder was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 10th round of the 2009 draft, given a $800,000 signing bonus and lured into beginning his baseball career immediately.
Destin Hood, OF, Washington Nationals
Doug Benc/Getty Images
Double-A: .241/.306/.341, 20 XBH (16 2B), 5 SB, 62 K/21 BB (69 G)
Selected by the Washington Nationals in the second round of the 2008 draft, Hood had committed to attend Alabama on a football scholarship to play wide receiver.
But that was before the Nats offered the outfielder a $1.1 million signing bonus to reconsider.
5. Bradley Marquez, OF, New York Mets
Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE
Rookie: .267/.313/.367, 2 XBH, 6 K/2 BB (9 G)
Coming out of high school in Odessa High School in Texas, Marquez was a nationally touted running back committed to continue his football career at Texas Tech. However, his ability on the gridiron continually overshadowed his ability on the diamond, as he was also a standout shortstop for his high school squad.
The New York Mets selected Marquez in the 16th round of the 2011 draft, signing him to a two-sport deal and offering him a $325,000 signing bonus. Therefore, Marquez continues his career with the Red Raiders in the fall and reports to the Mets in the spring.
4. Donavan Tate, OF, San Diego Padres
Courtesy of ESPN.com
Low-A, High-A: .232/.344/.277, 10 XBH, 16 SB, 93 K/44 BB (81 G)
Coming out of high school in Cartersville, Georgia, Tate was a highly touted dual-sport athlete who had committed to play both baseball and football (quarterback) for North Carolina.
However, after the San Diego Padres selected him with the third overall pick in the 2010 draft, Tate ultimately accepted a whopping $6.7 million signing bonus to begin his career in professional baseball.
3. Kyle Parker, OF, Colorado Rockies
High-A: .313/.421/.514, 30 XBH (13 HR), 46 RBI, 64 K/49 BB (75 G)
The No. 26 overall selection in the 2010 draft by the Colorado Rockies, the outfielder signed a $1.4 million contract that lured him away from an already successful career as the Clemson Tigers’ quarterback.
Now playing for High-A Modesto, Parker is the only player in NCAA Division I history to hit 20 home runs and throw 20 touchdown passes in the same year.
2. Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals
Courtesy of MLBProspectPortal.com
Rookie: .287/.388/.522, 13 XBH (6 HR), 20 RBI, 5 SB, 36 K/16 BB (28 G)
A three-sport high school standout in Kansas, Starling was considered one of the top recruits in both football (quarterback) and baseball and accepted a scholarship to the University of Nebraska to continue playing both sports.
Despite his signability concerns, the Royals made him their first-round pick in 2011 (No. 5 overall) and signed him after reaching an agreement on a $7.2 million bonus—the largest amount ever offered to a high school player.
1. Anthony Alford, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Courtesy of thescore.com
Rookie: .167/.250/.333, HR, 4 SB, 4 K/2 BB (5 G)
The 112th overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, the Blue Jays selected the Mississippi prep quarterback despite his commitment as a two-sport athlete to Southern Mississippi.
As part of his contract, Alford received a $750,000 signing bonus (slot value was $424,400), and the Blue Jays will allow him to honor his football commitment after all.