Jackson runner-up to Feliz in AL ROY vote

Jackson runner-up to Feliz in AL ROY vote

DETROIT -- Austin Jackson wasn't really looking at being recognized as American League Rookie of the Year among his career goals. He was looking a little farther down the road than that.

So while his runner-up finish to Rangers closer Neftali Feliz for AL Rookie honors was no doubt disappointing, it isn't quite the end for him -- at least, he hopes not.

Jackson topped Feliz last month for AL rookie kudos among The Sporting News and MLB Players Choice awards, which were both based on player balloting. In the end, though, members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America valued Feliz's contribution to a division champion over Jackson's all-around game for the .500 Tigers. Feliz took 20 of the 28 first-place votes, with Jackson taking the rest along with 19 second-place votes and one third-place nod.

Fellow Tigers outfielder Brennan Boesch, a strong contender at midseason before he fell into a second-half slump, garnered three second-place votes to finish tied for fifth.

Jackson still ended up with the best finish by a Tigers position player since Lou Whitaker won the award in 1978. Justin Verlander remains the last Tiger to win the award in 2006. Rick Porcello had a strong resume last year before finishing fourth in a stacked field topped by A's closer Andrew Bailey.

After enduring the grind of the Major League season, however, Jackson was already set to look ahead. He wants to come into next season better prepared physically for the season.

"I've seen how long a Major League season is, and I think that's going to be a big part of what I concentrate on," Jackson said recently. "That's going to be the main focus. I'll hit and stuff like that, but I think that stuff, you have to get away from it a little bit. You have to make sure that your body is right and you'll eventually come back into the swing of things, as far as getting ready for the season.

"I think you have plenty of time to get ready for the season, but you don't have that much time to get your body right, so I think you have to really focus in on that."

Jackson did not respond Monday to an email from MLB.com seeking comment.

Jackson wasn't even in the Tigers organization at this point a year ago. But when Detroit acquired him from the Yankees in the Curtis Granderson trade last December, team officials talked about Jackson having a chance to open the season as the starting center fielder. His defense, by all accounts, was good enough for the big leagues immediately. His offense was the question.

Time and again in '10, Jackson and his consistent work ethic proved doubters wrong. The 23-year-old not only took over in center field, but won the leadoff spot in the batting order -- even after the Tigers signed veteran Johnny Damon. He then kept his batting average over .300 every day from April 12 until Sept. 20, a 134-game stretch for Jackson.

Manager Jim Leyland saw a consistency in Jackson's approach.

"For a young player like Jackson to maintain, I think, his demeanor and his approach day in and day out? To be honest with you, it's surprising," Leyland said near season's end. "That's pretty good for a young player. That's pretty impressive."

Aside from home runs and RBIs, Jackson led AL rookies in nearly every major offensive category -- including 181 hits, 247 total bases, 103 runs scored, 48 extra-base hits, 34 doubles, 10 triples and 27 stolen bases. He became just the fourth Major League player ever to reach 180 hits, 100 runs, 30 doubles, 10 triples and 25 stolen bases in his rookie season, joining Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez, Juan Samuel and Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Ramirez won National League Rookie of the Year honors in '06. Samuel was the runner-up to Mets ace Dwight Gooden in 1984.

al rookie of the year voting
How the Baseball Writers' Association of America voted for the American League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award.
Player 1st 2nd 3rd Pts
Neftali Feliz, TEX 20 7 1 122
Austin Jackson, DET 8 19 1 98
Danny Valencia, MIN 1 9 12
Wade Davis, TB 11 11
John Jaso, TB 1 3
Brennan Boesch, DET 3 3
Brian Matusz, BAL 3 3

Jackson still had his growing pains, leading the AL with 170 strikeouts. When he put the ball in play, however, his batting average was .396.

In the outfield, meanwhile, his defense earned him some early mention among Gold Glove candidates and kudos from such greats as Torii Hunter. His over-the-shoulder catch on a full run in deep left-center field was the highlight play of Armando Galarraga's perfect-game bid on June 2, and the first of several similar catches over the course of the summer.

"What's amazing to me about him," Leyland said in September, "is [that] there's been so many of [those catches]. I would say a minimum of four, that I just thought he had no chance to catch them. Maybe once in a while he made a good catch that you felt like he was going to get it. But there's been four or five where I thought he had absolutely no chance, none."

The flat-out speed of the former Georgia Tech basketball recruit allowed him to chase down fly balls in almost every part of the gap, as long as he took the right route. His instincts and quick reads rarely let him down on that. Gold Glove outfielder Hunter was among the many peers to rave about his defense.

"He has a lot of instincts, and I think he's well on his way," Hunter said in April. "All he has to do is keep working hard, keep learning and keep asking questions. Whatever works for him, keep it in. Whatever doesn't work for him, throw it out the other ear -- and I think he'll be fine."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.