Tigers select 'total package' Jobe at No. 3

Athletic high school right-hander rated as Detroit's best player on the board

July 12th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- In a year when the Tigers' rebuild has started to show some results in Detroit, general manager Al Avila said all along they’d draft the player they believed has the best upside, not necessarily the quickest path. That ended up being a high school pitcher.

After weeks and months of connections to a deep crop of high school shortstops, the Tigers threw a curveball in the MLB Draft by using the third overall pick on Jackson Jobe, a power right-hander from Oklahoma City with one of the best sliders some evaluators have seen in years.

“We’ve been fortunate to scout and draft some great high school pitchers over the years, and Jackson ranks up there with some of the best we’ve seen,” Avila said in a release. “He pitches beyond his years, and we project him to be an impactful arm in our player development system, and eventually the Major Leagues. Though young pitching is one of our organizational strengths, we see the addition of Jackson as an important one as we continue building depth that will breed sustainable success in the long term.”

The Tigers haven’t shied away from drafting high school pitchers early when they believe the upside is worth the risk. Jobe is the fifth prep pitcher in the past 15 years selected with the Tigers’ top pick. The list includes Rick Porcello, an eventual Cy Young Award winner, and Matt Manning, who made his Major League debut with Detroit in June. It also includes eventual trade pieces Jacob Turner and Jake Thompson, the latter a second-round selection in a year when Detroit didn’t have a first-round pick.

Like Porcello, Jobe was rated as the top high school pitcher in the Draft.

“We’ve had success with young arms in the past,” Tigers amateur scouting director Scott Pleis said on a Sunday night video conference. “We’ve been through it a little bit. There’s really risk in everybody, but I think … we have an idea how to handle them and we do our best to make sure we develop them the correct way, and do things a certain way to make sure that everything goes the way we want to go.

“I think it would be a shame to run away from the best talent because maybe we were afraid that he might get hurt or something like that. Because in all sports, you watch, there’s always a risk. But his talent outweighed that risk for sure, for us, and that’s probably the main reason why we took him.”

Manning is part of a crop of young Tigers starters, along with former top overall pick Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, the clear strength of the organization and the crop by which Detroit's rebuild will ultimately be evaluated. But as former GM Dave Dombrowski loved to say, and the Tigers continue to follow, there is no such thing as too much pitching. Injuries place a premium on depth, and pitching prospects always have a value on the trade market.

Jobe, who said he learned about pitching from watching Gerrit Cole and Jacob deGrom, believes he can fit into the Tigers’ core group.

“They have a great group of young guys, and I’m ready to add to that,” Jobe said, “and eventually compete and win a World Series.”

In the end, the surprise wasn’t the Tigers drafting a pitcher, but who they passed up to do it. Detroit was linked early and often to a deep crop of high school shortstops and had all of them to choose from when Marcelo Mayer fell from the top spot. But despite a need for middle infielders to complete their rebuild, the Tigers liked Jobe too much.

“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,” Pleis said. “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.”

“Jackson is one of the most talented high schoolers we’ve scouted in years,” Pleis said in a release. “The stuff matches the power in his arsenal, and he does a great job at allowing his athleticism to show when on the mound. After months of input and discussion between our analytics, scouting and player development staffs, we all agreed that Jackson would be an excellent addition to our organization.”

Jobe, the No. 7 overall prospect in the Draft, was named Oklahoma’s Gatorade Player of the Year after going 9-0 with a 0.13 ERA to lead Heritage Hall to the Oklahoma 4-A title. The right-hander racked up 122 strikeouts over just 51 2/3 innings, all while walking only five batters -- good for a jaw-dropping 24.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Jobe relies on a wipeout slider that sits in the low 80s. Along with an advanced ability to locate his go-to offering, the righty has a four-seam fastball that also features high spin rates and some riding action, while hovering between 92-94 mph and topping out at 96. As if that wasn't enough, Jobe has an elite changeup that he throws to both lefties and righties, as well as a solid curveball.

“He already has four plus pitches, life to his pitches, command to his pitches,” Pleis said. “When you add it all up, I probably can count on one hand how many times I saw a high school pitcher with his advanced ability at this point.”

Jobe becomes the highest-drafted high school pitcher by the Tigers since they made Pat Underwood the second overall pick in 1976, a Draft that became better known for the Tigers selecting future Hall of Famers Alan Trammell in the second round, Jack Morris in the fifth and Ozzie Smith in the seventh. Underwood pitched parts of two seasons for Detroit before being traded.

Jobe is the highest-drafted high school pitcher by any club since the Padres used the third overall pick on MacKenzie Gore in 2017.

“I was just as surprised as everybody else,” Jobe said. “It’s been a long few days trying to figure out how everything going to land.”

Jobe also fits Detroit's recent trend of drafting or signing sons of pro athletes. His father is professional golfer Brandt Jobe. Jackson was also a multi-sport athlete, having played quarterback at Heritage Hall and taken parts of that onto the mound.

“I think football’s a very aggressive sport," Jackson Jobe said. "I learned a lot from football, playing it since I was younger. I kind of take that mindset with me on the mound and attack hitters, not afraid to come in on guys.”