They believe in him so much that they decided to shock the baseball world Sunday night, taking Jobe with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 MLB draft. All four high school shortstops were shoved aside for the 18-year-old right-handed pitcher from Heritage Hall High School in Oklahoma City.
“I was just as surprised as everybody else,” Jobe said Sunday. “It’s been a long few days trying to figure out how everything was gonna land. The second they called my name is when I knew. A long few days, a lot of anticipation, but I’m happy and excited.”
Many evaluators believed the Tigers needed a position player to help put the rebuild to rest, but Jobe throws a fastball that touches 99 mph with an elite slider, as well as a strong change-up and improving curveball. For the Tigers, his upside was too tempting to pass up.
“I think it would be a shame to run away from the best talent because maybe we were afraid he might get hurt or something like that,” Tigers amateur scouting director Scott Pleis said Sunday. “In all sports we watch, there’s always a risk. His talent outweighed that risk, for sure. That’s probably the main reason why we took him.”
With the No. 32 overall pick, in Competitive Balance Round A, the Tigers picked up Texas right-hander Ty Madden.
As a senior, Jobe pitched two no-hitters, led Heritage Hall to a state championship and logged a 0.14 ERA, five walks and 122 strikeouts over 52⅓ innings. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder is best known for his wipeout slider but has a four-seam fastball that is consistently 96 mph.
“He already has four pitches, and they’re four plus-pitches,” Pleis said. “Life to his pitches, command to his pitches. When you add it all up, I probably can’t count on one hand how many times I saw a high school pitcher with his advanced ability at this point.”
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The Tigers have selected a pitcher in the first round during four of the past six drafts. He joins right-handers Matt Manning (No. 9 overall in 2016), Alex Faedo (No. 18 overall in 2017) and Casey Mize (No. 1 overall in 2018). The organization took outfielder Riley Greene with the No. 5 overall pick in 2019 and first/third baseman Spencer Torkelson at No. 1 overall in 2020.
General manager Al Avila had his fourth top-five pick in as many 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. “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.”
In the past seven drafts, Jobe is the third high school pitcher taken by the Tigers in the first round. Right-hander Beau Burrows was picked No. 22 overall in 2015, followed by Manning in 2016. This season, the Tigers designated Burrows for assignment June 15, and the Minnesota Twins claimed him off waivers.
Jobe credits his football career — serving as Heritage Hall’s quarterback as a sophomore and junior — for aiding his maturity as a pitcher. He seems to embrace the fearless mindset that Tigers manager AJ Hinch and pitching coach Chris Fetter crave.
“Football is a very aggressive sport,” Jobe said. “I learned a lot from football, playing it since I was younger. I take that mindset with me on the mound and attack hitters. I’m not afraid to come in on guys or whatever it might be. It’s helped a ton.”
At one point, Chula Vista (Calif.) Eastlake High School shortstop Marcelo Mayer was atop the team’s draft board. Months ago, Avila would have been pleased to watch Mayer slip into his arms. But area scout Steve Taylor spearheaded the evaluation of Jobe, and the Tigers kept falling in love with each look.
They expect Jobe — an Ole Miss commit — to pan out as a frontline starter.
“It was a pretty easy pick because we always end up taking the best player on the board with the best ability and the most upside,” Pleis said. “It was an easy get for us. Jackson’s a special talent and a great makeup kid. Plus tools across the board with control, command and life to his fastball. Really the total package, which we rarely ever see in high school baseball.”
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If Jobe is as good as the Tigers think he is, maybe it won’t be too long before he reaches the big leagues. Of course, high school pitchers — especially those who throw hard — are the riskiest choices because of potential injuries. Although the Tigers don’t want to push Jobe, they’re optimistic his results will force the organization’s hand when a promotion is on the line.
Jobe could boast Rick Porcello’s speed in climbing through the minors. The Tigers drafted Porcello with the No. 27 overall pick in the 2007 draft. He started his professional career in 2008 and jumped to the majors as a 20-year-old in 2009. He enjoyed a 12-year MLB career.
“He’ll tell us when he needs to move,” Pleis said. “We’ll just go by that, instead of putting a timeline on him.”
Yet Jobe notices what is happening with the Tigers. He recognizes the three-headed monster forming in the starting rotation, including 24-year-old rookies Mize and Tarik Skubal and 23-year-old rookie Manning. Soon, Jobe wants to be included in those conversations.
Jobe should get the opportunity to enjoy the Comerica Park spotlight, but his toughest developmental tasks are only beginning.
“I know they have a great group of young guys,” Jobe said. “I’m ready to add to that and eventually compete and win a World Series.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.