The Road to The Show™: Tigers righty Jobe
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at top Tigers prospect Jackson Jobe. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here. There was a clear priority for Jackson Jobe coming
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at top Tigers prospect Jackson Jobe. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here.
There was a clear priority for Jackson Jobe coming into his first professional season, and it had to do with the most important pitch in his arsenal.
No, it wasn’t his elite, 65-grade slider, which solidified his status as MLB Pipeline’s top-ranked prep pitcher in the 2021 Draft class and made him a Statcast darling in the Florida State League this summer. Instead, it was the fastball that represented the biggest project for the 20-year-old during his first Minor League minicamp this spring.
Jobe told MLB.com in February that the mid-90s heater was his “only con” after an offseason spent with an emphasis on developing his changeup. The top Tigers prospect said he was going to start “hammering” in the work on his fastball shape and movement as he progressed toward the season.
That work seemed to take some time to pan out. But Jobe was pleased with the offering during a late-season self-assessment.
“I’ve had the velo; it was a matter of just staying behind the ball and getting some more movement,” Jobe told MLB.com in late August. “I feel like I’ve finally gotten the hang of it, so it’s definitely a very big factor in my game.”
If he had figured out a better version of his fastball as the season rolled along, the results went with it. Jobe opened the year with Single-A Lakeland and -- after getting his feet wet with a couple short outings in April -- pitched to a 5.48 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 46 innings over 13 starts from May through July. Although his overall numbers didn’t look great on the surface, he was promoted to High-A West Michigan on Aug. 19.
In fact, he had rattled off three strong starts for the Flying Tigers before the promotion and had three more strong outings for the Whitecaps to finish the season. Over his final six starts, Jobe surrendered six earned runs in 28 ⅓ innings (1.91 ERA) while striking out 29 and holding opposing batters to a .185 average.
“It was a big learning experience for me,” Jobe told MLB.com. “I feel like I kind of got out of whack there at the beginning of the season, got away from myself, just trying to do too much. But I made the adjustment physically and mentally. It’s a really good learning experience, and something I’ll take with me throughout my career.”
Jobe mentions that the shift in approach came during the end of his time in Lakeland. It was his first time facing professional bats, and he felt he was giving them “too much credit” by not attacking the strike zone, but rather nibbling around the edges.
It makes it easier for a pitcher to attack the zone when they have confidence in all of their pitches, especially a fastball. Jobe’s heater had a tendency of being relatively flat and thus easier to hit. But he worked on a way to shape it better with Tigers pitching director Gabe Ribas, who focused on maintaining velocity while adding movement and spin.
Impressive spin rate metrics, particularly on his slider, have followed Jobe from the amateur ranks to professional ball. According to Statcast, Jobe threw 101 of 263 tracked sliders (38.4 percent) with a spin rate of 3,000 rpm or greater. Opposing batters hit a paltry .152 against the elite offering.
Over the course of the season, his fastball spin rate also improved, according to MLB.com. In a May 7 start, Statcast indicated his heater had an average 2,499 rpm with a maximum of 2,582. In his final start with Lakeland on Aug. 17, he averaged 2,581 rpm with a top spin rate of 2,712.
There’s obviously more to success in pitching than spin rates and metrics, but both Jobe and the organization clearly accomplished what they’d set out to do in 2022 -- and rather quickly.
The Tigers selected Jobe out of Heritage Hall High School in Oklahoma City with the No. 3 overall pick in last year’s Draft. MLB Pipeline’s No. 38 overall prospect first hit the amateur showcase circuit as a shortstop, but quickly became a coveted arm once scouts took notice of his slider.
“We always end up taking the best player on the board with the best ability and the most upside, so it was an easy, easy get for us,” former Tigers amateur scouting director Scott Pleis told MLB.com after the Draft. “Jackson’s a special talent and a great makeup kid [with] plus tools across the board -- control, command, life to his fastball, just really the total package, which we rarely ever see in high school baseball.”
Tigers top prospect Jackson Jobe has made it to West Michigan, bringing poise and maturity in a strong finish to his first full season.#RoadToDetroit presented by @Carhartt pic.twitter.com/ZoX3hOj9VQ— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) September 23, 2022
Jobe made his final high school start on May 14, 2021 and pitched in his first professional outing more than 11 months later. With the Draft pushed back to July, the Tigers decided to keep the 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-hander in minicamp. But as he grew eager to compete in games, Jobe had time to be taught how to be a professional pitcher.
“I definitely have learned a lot about the importance of what I’m putting in my body and how that’s going to affect my recovery and my performance,” Jobe told MLB.com in January. “I think the biggest thing for me was being consistent and having a routine that I feel comfortable with. That’s my eating and my training as well. I pretty much eat at the same time every day and train at the same time every day. I’ve been doing that for a little while.”
Detroit has had Draft picks in the top five every year since 2018. And their best prospects and young players, like Spencer Torkelson, Riley Greene and Casey Mize, were either making or nearing significant Major League contributions.
Rather than giving in to the temptation of selecting a more experienced college player who might move through the Minors quickly and join Torkelson and Greene fairly soon, the club opted to take a more patient approach, and with that, the player they thought was the best available.
There’s obviously a lot to like about Jobe’s ace potential. The improvements to his arsenal, along with some positive results after being bumped up a level, suggest that his ascent through the Minors could happen faster than the average prep pitcher.
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.