Potential Detroit Tigers No. 1 pick Jackson Jobe’s 99 mph fastball isn’t his best feature

Detroit Free Press

Why could the Detroit Tigers draft Jackson Jobe, a high school pitcher, on Sunday with the third pick in the MLB draft?

Because he checks every box imaginable.

Jobe, a right-handed pitcher, can touch 99 mph. He has a nasty slider with an MLB-level spin rate. He walked just five batters during his senior year while striking out 122 in 51⅔ innings, posting a 0.14 ERA and a 9-0 record.

The son of a professional golfer, he has a strong mental makeup.

Oh, and he is athletic. He played shortstop when he wasn’t pitching.

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Best of all, he has a fresh arm with little mileage. He was used just once a week with a pitch count while leading Oklahoma City Heritage Hall High School to the state title.

Maybe, after considering Jobe’s skills, the better question would be: How can the Tigers not take this 6-foot-2, 190-pound pitcher who is only going to get stronger?

Granted, there is a flip side to the equation: the Tigers have a desperate need to add more offensive players; and if they take a pitcher, you could argue it is too risky to draft a high schooler and it might be safer to take one of the Vanderbilt pitchers (Jack Leiter or Kumar Rocker) because they have faced far tougher competition and might be ready for the big leagues faster.

But Jobe presents an interesting case to be the Tigers’ pick.

“Man, he’s as gifted as they come at the high school level when it comes to talent,” Heritage coach Jordan Semore said. “The thing is, he’s worked for it. He’s worked really hard, puts in the time and everything has just really come together for him.

“Just a great kid, makes great grades at a prestigious high school. Never have to worry about him off the field. And he turned into a real leader for us this year.”

Groomed to be a pro

Jobe is such a good athlete there was a time when some considered him a future pro as a shortstop. As a senior, he hit a team-leading .469 with 13 doubles, five triples, six homers and 37 RBIs. He also stole 13 bases.

But now it’s clear he will be pitching professionally.

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“Jobe’s 3,000-rpm slider is one of the best pitches in the class,” Baseball America wrote. “It’s a future plus-plus pitch that has excellent depth and bite and he’s shown he can land it for strikes as well. His mid-90s fastball is another plus pitch. It has life up in the zone and he’s demonstrated he can work it in and out.”

Jobe, who will turn 19 at the end of July, also throws a change-up and spike curveball.

“Jobe’s delivery includes a clean arm action with minimal effort,” Baseball America wrote. “There’s reason to believe he will continue to get stronger and eventually throw even harder.”

Jonathan Mayo, a draft expert at MLB.com, projects Jobe will be taken by the Tigers, as does Carlos Collazo from Baseball America.

“He has one of the quickest arms and the best slider in the Draft, and his other pitches have improved this spring,” MLB.com wrote. “Jobe repeats his easy delivery and provides plenty of strikes, and his athleticism and efficiency should allow him to remain in the rotation for the long term.”

Jobe, who has committed to Mississippi, is the son of Brandt Jobe, who competes on the PGA Champions Tour.

“He’s taught me a bunch growing up about the mindset that you have to have and how much handwork it takes to get where you’re at,” Jackson told the Oklahoman, “and from a young age he was always telling me he wasn’t going to do it for me. If I wanted to go hit or throw whatever then he would do it but he’s not going to be the one pushing me or making me do different things.”

Brandt, 55, turned pro in 1988. He has $14.3 million in career earnings.

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“I have to believe that his dad is a huge reason that Jackson has such a strong mental side to any aspect of the game,” Semore said. “It was really exciting to watch Jackson the latter half of the season, whether he was a pitcher, whether he was a hitter, there was a lot of big moments that he came through in the clutch for us, whether it was hitting a three-run home run or making a big play up the middle at shortstop in a crucial situation. I mean, big-time players step up in those big-time situations. And he did it almost every time.”

A growth, and maturity spurt

Jobe is a late bloomer who moved to Oklahoma City as a sophomore. In his first year of varsity ball at Heritage Hall, Jobe was used as a closer and had 50 strikeouts in 25 innings.

“He had a great sophomore year for us,” Semore said. “We didn’t want to throw in (him) too many innings.”

He was only throwing 86-88 mph as a sophomore.

As a junior, his velocity jumped into the low 90s, but then the season was shut down because of COVID-19.

“Coming into this year is when he really had a growth spurt and maturity spurt,” Semore said. “He really put in the time and the worked on his craft.”

He came into this season throwing 95-96 mph.

“The phone started blowing up,” Semore said. “Everybody was talking about his fastball, his slider, the spin rate on both and the consistency. It’s pretty much been like that for the remainder of the year.”

So many scouts attended his games that they started their own email chain with Semore to know when Jobe was pitching.

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“There would be 50, 60, 70 scouts in the stands,” Semore said.

By the end of the season, at least three or four GMs saw him pitch.

“Was Tigers GM Al Avila one of them?” I asked.

“I do believe that he was one of the GMs that was at our regional game,” Semore said. “I’m not positive on that. But I think there were three or four of them. I didn’t get to talk to any of them.”

Jobe touched 99 mph multiple times during the season.

“He’ll probably hit 100 really soon,” Semore said.

And that is the part that is the most intriguing about Jobe. He’s still getting better.

Can you imagine what Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter could do with a fresh-armed kid possessing this much talent and potential?

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel/.

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