Jackson’s profile does suggest that he should have an above average BABIP. He has a line drive rate of 25.8% and a ground ball rate above 50%, and both serve his speed quite well. As such, an above average BABIP should be expected.
But there are limits. First of all, Jackson’s high line drive rate is second in the league and ripe for some amount of regression to the mean. Second of all, Jackson’s BABIP on ground balls in particular is .333, and bound to come down. Jackson’s excellent 10.1% infield hit rate is about 4% above the league average, meaning that he accrues an extra 5.5 hits among his 148 ground balls, which only accounts for about 30 points of BABIP on grounders – that .333 GB BABIP is over 100 points above the league average rate, and can’t simply be explained by speed.
His BABIP on fly balls is also above the league average, by just under 70 points, and I don’t think the abnormality on fly ball BABIP can be explained as simply as his speed. Simply put, Jackson’s BABIP is going to come down.
Former Yankee Austin Jackson has put together a decent rookie season for himself and it has some Yankee fans in fits. Overall he’s hitting .304 with a .352 OBP, a .757 OPS and a 103 OPS+. Nothing spectacular, but for a 23-year-old rookie it is a promising start.
There is one problem, he leads all of baseball with a .422 BABIP and as FanGraphs points out it is just not sustainable. The comparison that I liked was with Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, as both Ichiro and AJax are fast outfielders with little to no power. Ichiro has a career BABIP of .357, it’s impressive and if Jackson could manage that throughout his career it would be a major feat.
That’s still 65 points lower than what he’s putting together this season. In other words, he’s getting incredibly lucky. So in the future we can expect some serious regression. That means that Jackson’s .304 batting average is in serious jeopardy of declining next season and if Jackson can’t hit for a high average he can’t do much else offensively.
He has almost no power at all, putting up a low .406 slugging percentage even with the speed to stretch singles into doubles and doubles into triples. Considering he and Curtis Granderson have comparable speed and outfield defense, fans should probably give the trade that shipped AJax off more time before judging it. Because when all is said and done, the Yankees might have shipped off a 4th outfield type for Granderson which wouldn’t be too bad even at Granderson’s current production.