How Jobe reclaimed top prospect status with Tigers

May 14th, 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.

DETROIT -- Meet the Tigers’ new top prospect, same as the Tigers’ old top prospect.

And yet, with Jackson Jobe, there’s a lot we’re still learning about just how good of a pitcher he can be.

MLB Pipeline updated its Top 100 Prospects list, and Jobe jumped from No. 21 to No. 10 in the ranks. It’s the largest jump by a player into the Top 10, and the 10th-biggest improvement by a player overall. That leapfrogged him over outfielder Max Clark, who went from No. 11 to No. 13 in the updated rankings.

Thus, Jobe became the Tigers’ No. 1 prospect, a title he held last year before they drafted Clark third overall. Jace Jung, who jumped from No. 53 to No. 48, is the only other other Tiger in the Top 100, because Colt Keith graduated from prospect status.

Ironically, Jobe’s jump comes at a point when he isn’t actually pitching, as a left hamstring strain landed him on the injured list at Double-A Erie on May 2. But he did plenty before the injury to justify his rise. After an impressive Spring Training that included a 102-mph fastball in a dominant inning for the Major League club in Grapefruit League play, Jobe has a 2.16 ERA over five starts for the defending Eastern League champion SeaWolves. He tossed 10 consecutive hitless innings over three starts prior to his injury. He also struck out 11 batters over seven hitless innings in his past two starts.

Jobe’s high-spin slider was already one of baseball’s more impressive pitches, but his work over the past year to add velocity and ride to his fastball while complementing it with a changeup and a cutter added speed and deception to the package.

Jobe already entered the season as MLB Pipeline’s No. 2 right-handed pitching prospect, behind Pirates sensation Paul Skenes. Jobe is the first Tigers pitcher to crack the Top 10 overall since Casey Mize in 2020.

None of this makes a difference on his timetable to Detroit. Whenever Jobe’s hamstring heals, he’ll pick up where he left off in Erie. If there’s a silver lining to his time off, it’s that the Tigers should have an easier time fitting a regular workload into the innings target they had planned for him going into the season. Since his injury doesn’t involve his arm, Jobe shouldn’t have any extra restrictions on workload once he returns. Whether it impacts his timetable to Detroit, having said recently that he wants to pitch in the Majors by the end of this season, also depends on his performance.

Just because Jobe has jumped over Clark, however, it doesn’t mean Clark has ceased to be a premium prospect. He entered Tuesday having hit safely in five consecutive games and seven of nine this month for Single-A Lakeland, while cutting down on his strikeout rate from April. He’s batting .250/.362/.333 with two doubles, two triples, one home run, 18 RBIs, 20 walks and 23 strikeouts in 28 games. Clark has pounded sinkers for a .435 weighted on-base average (wOBA), a 91.1 percent average exit velocity and a 46.7 percent hard-hit rate, while holding his own against four-seam fastballs too.

Clark is also 8-for-8 on stolen bases this season, all of them coming in a quartet of two-steal games.

Among the trio of Tigers prospects, Jung is most likely to reach Detroit first, a case he continues to make with his production for Triple-A Toledo. The 2022 first-round Draft pick entered Tuesday batting .282/.400/.524 for the Mud Hens, including 10 doubles, one triple, six home runs and 27 RBs over 35 games.

Minor League roundup

Triple-A Toledo: The Mud Hens hit the road for the next couple of weeks after alternating wins and losses at home in a six-game series split against St. Paul. No. 4 prospect Ty Madden recovered from his rough Triple-A debut to strike out 11 over nine innings of three-run ball across two starts. Jung went 5-for-10 across the series' first three games (with one double, one home run and two RBIs) before missing the last three contests of the series with an undisclosed injury.

Double-A Erie: The SeaWolves are hot, having swept Richmond in a six-game set at UPMC Park as part of a seven-game winning streak. No. 10 prospect Troy Melton earned his first Double-A win by tossing five scoreless innings with five strikeouts on Friday. Gage Workman continued his case for prospect redemption, going 6-for-21 with two doubles and four RBIs.

High-A West Michigan: The Whitecaps also begin a two-week road trip Tuesday after going 4-2 against Fort Wayne. No. 24 prospect Roberto Campos continued to show signs of emerging as an impact hitter with one home run, one double and four RBIs in a 4-for-19 series. No. 18 prospect Jaden Hamm struck out six batters over five scoreless innings, extending his scoreless streak to 12 1/3 innings over his past three starts, with 18 strikeouts.

Single-A Lakeland: The Flying Tigers host Fort Myers on Tuesday night to begin a two-week homestand after winning five of six at Daytona. Andrew Sears, a 10th-round Draft pick last year out of UConn, earned Florida State League Pitcher of the Week honors by tossing five scoreless innings with nine strikeouts, including his last four batters, on Saturday. No. 5 prospect Kevin McGonigle went 7-for-24 with one triple and four runs scored in the series.