TRENTON- Power hitters are an interesting breed of baseball players. With the high home run and RBI totals also come the strikeouts. That is the case for Trenton Thunder outfielder Jhalan Jackson.
The 25-year old Jackson is the team leader and is fifth overall in the Eastern League in home runs with nine.
“It’s been my thing; power, hitting home runs,” Jackson said. “But also I’ve been trying to hit for average so it just comes with it, when you’re making contact, the home runs will come.”
On the flip side, Jackson also leads the team and is second in the Eastern League in strikeouts with 55. The only player with more punch outs than Jackson is Binghamton Rumble Ponies outfielder Tim Tebow, who has fanned 58 times.
As of May 22, Jackson had played in 38 games for Trenton. The first 24 of those 38 games saw Jackson record at least one strikeout and in 16 of those 24 games he recorded at least two, combining for 45 K’s in his first 24 games.
“It was tough on me mentally,” Jackson said. “I feel like that’s why I was striking out, I was thinking about it too much.”
Jackson’s strikeout numbers have gone down a bit though, as he has struck out a total of just 11 times over 14 games since his 24-game strikeout streak.
Working with Trenton Thunder hitting coach Ty Hawkins, Jackson has developed a new plan at the plate.
“The plan was to just kind of develop a two-strike approach which he feels comfortable with,” Hawkins said. “I think he’s always had a pretty good idea of the strike zone so now it’s just a matter of making a little more contact with two-strikes.”
“Just pretty much getting my pitch, working the count, getting into deep counts and mainly, when I get that pitch, don’t miss it.” Jackson said.
Another thing that Jackson has begun to work on is hitting for average and instead of trying to pull the ball out of the park, work on getting base-hits.
“I think he’s gotten a little bit off the pull side a little bit more and he’s able to back the ball up and see the ball a little bit better,” Trenton Thunder manager Jay Bell said. Because of that, you tend to see strikeouts go down a little bit.”
“The one thing that every player has to realize, especially if you’re a guy like Jhalan, who has tons of power who can hit it out to all parts of the field, he has to remind himself that the pull side is not necessarily the only power area, and if he backs it up, he can have more success to the big part of the field.” Bell added.
This new approach at the plate for Jackson reminds Bell of a player during his time as the Bench coach for the Cincinnati Reds from 2013 to 2015.
“The way that I described it a few years ago in Cincinnati to Jay Bruce was that if you have the greatest year of your career and let’s say you have 200 hits, you have 40 home runs, you have 40 doubles and you have 10 triples, how many singles do you hit?” Bell said. “So he did the math in his head and he said 110 and I said absolutely, you’re a singles hitter, everybody is a singles hitter.”
Jackson’s isn’t only a good power hitter, but he is a good defender as well, with a strong arm to boot.
Since the beginning of his professional baseball career in 2015, Jackson has totaled 397 putouts, 21 assists, and only 12 errors, giving him a fielding percentage of .972.
“I’m pretty solid defensively, I don’t make too many errors, I got a pretty good arm,” Jackson said. “I’ve had quite a few assists since I’ve been in pro ball.”
But for now, Jackson is focusing on his hitting and getting to first base.
“You try to get guys to understand that if you have a man on second and third and you’re down by a run in the ninth and all you need is a base-hit up the middle to score two to win the game and I think that’s where he’s at right now,” Bell said. “He started to realize that singles are going to work and that everything good comes off of hitting a hard line drive single.”
“When you work up the middle, the hits fall and the hits come so it’s been my approach as of lately, just thinking up the middle.” Jackson said.