Jacobs—the White Sox’s newly minted No. 8 prospect, according to MLB.com—has looked real good at Double-A.
In 20 games for the Birmingham Barons, he is hitting .299 with two home runs, 17 RBI, 23 hits, five doubles and 17 strikeouts in 77 at-bats. In those 20 contests, he has recorded at least one base hit 19 times, including a 17-game hitting streak.
Although he has cooled down recently—hitting .250 over his past 10 games—he has been attacking pitches in the zone early on in the count, which has resulted in a career-low 19.5 strikeout percentage entering play on Tuesday, per FanGraphs.
He looks comfortable at the plate, which is not something you could have said about him two months ago.
As good as Jacobs has been recently, there are legitimate questions about his plate discipline.
Minor League Ball’s John Sickel summed them up in an article he wrote just after the White Sox acquired the young left fielder.
Jacobs has yet to live up to his full physical potential. He's had significant problems making contact against High-A pitching, limiting his batting average and on-base percentage. He'll make an effort to work counts and will draw some walks, but his strikeout rate remains stubbornly higher than one per game and he seems to have trouble reading breaking pitches. Obviously this will be an even bigger problem at higher levels, but at age 22, Jacobs still has time to improve.
Building off of Sickel’s concerns, Jacobs’ hot start must be put into context.
It has only been 20 games since Jacobs was traded to the White Sox, which is a very small sample size to base a full evaluation on. Further, his IsoD (OBP—BA) is a mere .023 entering play on Tuesday, according to FanGraphs, which means he still needs to focus on taking extra pitches.
The concerns about Jacobs are real, but his performance with the Barons is just a continuation of what he was doing in the Red Sox organization before he was traded. Over his last 220 High-A at-bats, for example, he compiled a .289/.372/531 slash line before a three-game promotion to Double-A, per Jim Margalus at South Side Sox.
Jacobs must continue to swing the bat well, but the production to this point warrants excitement.
Has Jacobs surpassed Mitchell, Hawkins, Thompson and Walker on the depth chart in the minor leagues?
With the exception of the newly acquired Avisail Garcia (.409, HR, 7 RBI, 6 R at Triple-A Charlotte), Jacobs has shown more in his short time with the Barons than the other “toolsy” outfielders in the White Sox farm system have all season.
Jared Mitchell, Courtney Hawkins, Trayce Thompson and Keenyn Walker are all struggling, and none of them has put together a three-week stretch that compares to what Jacobs is doing right now.
Making the 25-man roster in 2014 is a long shot, but if Jacobs can continue to produce at this level, he will be given every opportunity to win a job out of spring training next season.
After all, the current collection of major league outfielders will, most likely, not be together next year.
While White Sox manager Robin Ventura is comfortable with Dayan Viciedo in left field, Hahn noted before spring training that first base could be a destination for him, and the futures of both Alejandro De Aza (arbitration eligible) and Alex Rios (potential to be traded) are wholly undecided.
When the announcement was made that the White Sox would receive Jacobs in return for Thornton, I was skeptical. More of the same, right? Wrong.
After three impressive weeks at Double-A, there is legitimacy to Hahn’s claim, per the Chicago Tribune's Mark Gonzales, that Jacobs has the “upside to be an everyday corner outfielder.”
He has looked that impressive.