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OC Register: Angels infield prospect Jeremiah Jackson, 19, keeps mashing homers

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Jeremiah Jackson admits that he had a target number of homers for his second season as a professional.

“I wanted to get 10,” the Angels’ 19-year-old middle infield prospect said by phone on Friday. “That was my goal. It just kind of blew up from there. It’s been awesome.”

Jackson is now up to 20, including on Thursday night hitting three in a game for the first time since he was 12. Playing at rookie-level Orem, Utah, Jackson leads all minor-league short-season players in homers.

He has played 52 of Orem’s 55 games in the season, which started in mid-June.

While the Angels have had a disappointing season in the majors, and by some measures their improving farm system has stalled, Jackson has been a bright spot.

The Angels’ second-round pick out of St. Luke’s Episcopal School in Mobile, Ala., last year, Jackson is rated the Angels’ No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline and No. 10 by Baseball America.

Jackson, 19, is still years away from the majors. He figures to start next season at Class-A Burlington, Iowa, the Angels’ lowest-level full-season team, but the Angels have shown that they will move players multiple levels in a season if they perform. Luís Rengifo played at three levels as a 21-year-old in 2018 and reached the majors this year.

Last season Jackson started in the Arizona rookie league and then finished at Orem, hitting .198 with two homers and a .656 OPS at Orem.

Jackson was hoping to start this season at Burlington. Instead, he remained in Arizona for extended spring training, which meant two more months of mind-numbing drills and practice games played on back fields before a sprinkling of friends and family members.

“Extended can be a tough place to be,” Jackson said. “I just used it as an extra opportunity to get me ready for the season. It’s paid off.”

Jackson said the biggest issue for him in his resurgence has been simply pitch-selection. Although he’s made constant tweaks to the mechanics of his swing, like all players, the difference has been his decision-making.

“Go up there and look for a good pitch to hit, and hit it hard,” he said.

After starting the Orem season by hitting .210 with four homers in his first 16 games, Jackson had a three-hit game, with two homers, on July 4. It was the second of six multi-homer games this season. Four days later, he hit two more.

Since July 4, Jackson has hit .307 with 16 homers and a 1.076 OPS.

The biggest issue in his offensive game remains the strikeouts. He has struck out 74 times in 233 plate appearances. At this point it’s also unclear if he can stick at shortstop or if he’ll have to move to second or third.

Jackson is playing alongside Will Wilson, the Angels’ first-round pick this summer. The two are alternating at shortstop and second base. Wilson, a product of North Carolina State, is rated the No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline.

Early in the season, they both had a chance to spend a couple days with Andrelton Simmons. With most of the Angels affiliates on their All-Star break in June, Simmons had to go to Orem for a brief rehab assignment.

“It was awesome, with him being there,” Jackson said. “We’d be taking infield together and I’d ask him about why he’d do things. Or we’d talk about approach and what he thinks in the box. It was great to get insight from a big leaguer.”

Coincidentally or not, it wasn’t long after Simmons’ visit that Jackson’s numbers exploded.

“As time went on I found a groove,” he said. “I just got comfortable with everything.”

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