The Seattle Mariners made a pretty significant move in the minor leagues today, moving outfielder Alex Jackson–the top prospect in the system–up to Class-A Clinton and releasing center fielder Austin Cousino, the Mariners' 3rd round pick in 2014:
#Mariners move OF Alex Jackson, their top prospect, from extended spring training to Lo-A Clinton. Release OF Austin Cousino— Bob Dutton (@TNT_Mariners) May 19, 2016
For Jackson, it will be his second go-round with the LumberKings. The 6th overall pick in the 2014 draft started out the 2015 season in Clinton, but was sent back down to Arizona after hitting a measly .157/.240/.213 over 121 plate appearances. He later rebounded with Low-A Everett, posting a line of .239/.365/.466 over 197 plate appearances with the AquaSox. It's not exactly the type of line you want your top prospect to put up, but given that Jackson was a teenager who was struggling to hit baseballs well for probably the first time in his life, he deserves to be cut some slack.
It will be nice to see how Jackson looks after spending a significant amount of time in extended Spring Training. Aside from a few voices leaking through the grapevine, you'll never get much of a feel for how a player is progressing down there. May he smash many baseballs and reestablish himself as the unquestioned top prospect in the system.
The release of Cousino, meanwhile, was the more surprising move of the two. Back in 2014, Cousino was billed as arguably the best defensive center fielder in all of college baseball. While he lacked top-end speed, his routes and reads on the ball were phenomenal and he was projected to be a fourth outfielder at worst if his bat showed even the slightest bit of promise.
Things seemed promising enough after a sixty-six game stint with the Aqua Sox that saw him slash .266/.341/.402 over 309 plate appearances. The performance pushed him onto several Mariners' top prospects lists, and all was well heading into the 2015 season and then just like that it all fell apart.
In 57 games with Clinton in 2015, Cousino put up a 50 wRC+ and a .065 ISO. Injuries had plagued his season, however, and there was a chance 2016 could be somewhat of a bounce back year for the Kentucky alum. Unfortunately for Cousino, he wasn't given much of a chance to turn things around. He received 93 plate appearances with High-A Bakersfield, slashing .179/.231/.286 before receiving a demotion to Clinton. His second stint with the LumberKings lasted just 9 games and produced a line of .156/.229/.219.
Farewell, Cousino. I hope you find success with another organization. I will never forget the first time I saw this catch and spent the next ten minutes hunting for pieces of my jaw on the floor:
Oh my goodness Alex Jackson just crushed a solo HR!! That ball was destroyed.— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) May 20, 2016