This Tigers prospect is becoming unhittable

April 27th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jason Beck's Tigers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The 3-2 fastball from Jackson Jobe to Robert Hassell III sailed up and away, putting the Nationals’ No. 8 prospect on base to begin Thursday’s Double-A game between Erie and Harrisburg at UPMC Park. Hassell ended up being the only Senators player to reach base against Jobe, the Tigers’ No. 2 prospect.

From there, Jobe not only struck out the middle of Harrisburg’s lineup in order, he did it with the gamut of his arsenal. Andrew Pinckney (Washington’s No. 17 prospect) took a slider for a called third strike, then Brady House (No. 3) whiffed on a changeup before Jobe overpowered Yohandy Morales (No. 4) with a fastball to end the inning.

Jobe rolled from that point, retiring his final 12 batters in order. His fastball sat at 96-97 mph, but got up to 98 on a swing-and-miss in the second inning. His changeup was nasty, and his slider came around after some command issues early. Ultimately, the only opponent Jobe couldn’t overcome was his early-season pitch count. He left after four innings and 60 pitches as the Tigers continue to budget his workload following last year’s injury-shortened season.

“I just think that’s so I don’t reach my innings limit in July or August,” Jobe said a couple weeks ago. “They’re just trying to be smart.”

It wasn’t triple-digit heat like Jobe showed during that dominant inning on March 12 in Spring Training, but it was a better glimpse of how Jobe’s fastball fits into his arsenal when he’s rolling. When he fell behind 3-0 to begin the second inning, he fired three consecutive fastballs (called strike, swinging strike, flyout) to Dérmis Garcia to avoid a leadoff walk.

Jobe can pair that fastball with his changeup to speed up and slow down hitters. He can also change the eye level with his slider. It was a reminder of something Jobe discussed in Spring Training: Sometimes the pitch that got you drafted (in Jobe’s case, the high-spin slider) isn’t the pitch that gets you to the Majors.

“He’s, obviously, extremely talented,” SeaWolves manager Gabe Alvarez said a couple of weeks ago. “You don’t see an arm like that come along very often.”

It was a good rebound against a Harrisburg lineup that worked Jobe for three walks, three hits and three unearned runs in 2 1/3 innings in his season debut on April 7 -- an outing Jobe chalked up to a few pitches he didn’t execute in key situations. Jobe walked another four batters his next time out against Binghamton, an uncharacteristic flirtation with the strike zone for someone who walked only six batters over 64 innings last season.

Jobe has settled in since and made adjustments, including a move across the pitching rubber. Add Thursday’s gem with his previous start, and he has retired 23 of his past 24 batters while racking up 11 strikeouts and allowing zero hits. With his pitch selection, he’s getting strikeouts on pitches in the zone, something the Tigers emphasize.

The experience of doing that both with and against more experienced prospects is something Jobe values.

“Playing with an older group, playing with guys that came off a championship, guys that pitched at this level and played at this level -- even facing higher-level hitters -- believing that I can compete up here and do my thing,” Jobe said.

Said Alvarez: “He’s great with the guys, and they get on him because he’s the youngest guy on the team. So you have to get on the youngest guy, and he takes it so well. So it’s a good dynamic.”

The innings are budgeted with an idea of having Jobe experience a full season (or close to it), and learn at multiple levels. He told’s Michael Avallone after Thursday’s outing that he wants to pitch in the big leagues this year, something that his innings budget might allow him to do late in the season. He still has points to work on at Double-A, but nights like Thursday against a lineup that beat him earlier shows the progress is quick.

“You have to make your pitches,” Alvarez said. “They were laying off some tough pitches [his first start]. It may have surprised him a little bit that they weren’t swinging and missing at those pitches. That’s going to be a part of his development at every level, especially when he gets to the big leagues. Those guys don’t swing at a lot of balls. He’s going to have to keep making his pitches. I think it’s part of everyone’s development.”