Jackson Jobe is ready to get started.
Last year’s No. 3 overall pick visited the Detroit Tigers‘ spring training facility for six weeks after the July draft, throwing bullpens while he was prohibited from facing live hitters. He roomed with his best friend — and the Tigers’ second-round pick — Izaac Pacheco. The 19-year-old prospects plan to climb the organization’s hierarchy together.
Jobe, a right-handed pitcher who signed for $6.9 million, has also heard from the newest members of the player development staff, including key additions in the pitching department. Standing at 6 feet 2, Jobe bulked up to 210 pounds, after pitching as a high school senior in Oklahoma at 195. He’s at 205 now.
More than anything, Jobe wants to begin his professional baseball career.
“The last pitch I threw was May 14,” Jobe said Wednesday from his home in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. “It’s been all I’ve been thinking about since the draft. I was hoping to get a few innings when I was down there in the fall, but I ended up just throwing a few bullpens and getting out of there.
“I’m hungry. I’m counting down the days. It couldn’t come any sooner.”
THE TRANSFORMATION: How Jackson Jobe went from barely touching 90 mph to Tigers’ top draft pick
Jobe’s first pro season kicks off Feb. 16, one day after he’s scheduled to arrive in Lakeland.
The mid-February date marks the first workout for Tigers’ pitchers and catchers, followed by the first full-squad workout Feb. 21. Players on MLB rosters as of Dec. 1 can’t report to spring training until the owners’ lockout ends, but the Tigers are operating a minicamp for minor-league players.
Soon, Jobe will showcase his revered slider, with spin rates north of 3,000 rpm, and his 95 mph fastball. He is the Tigers’ No. 3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, behind first baseman Spencer Torkelson (No. 1) and outfielder Riley Greene (No. 2).
“I’ve been staying on the Tigers’ strength and conditioning (program),” Jobe said, “and working with my pitching guy (Alex Marney from Pitch WRX in Edmond, Oklahoma) that I was with last year and years prior. I’m trying to stay consistent with my routine. I’m ready to get back. It’s been a long time.”
As a senior at Heritage Hall, Jobe posted a 9-0 record with a 0.13 ERA, five walks and 112 strikeouts over 51 ⅔ innings. The draft occurred two months after May 14, Jobe’s final outing, so the Tigers shut him down for the rest of the season.
“I understand their thought process,” Jobe said. “I came out of there healthy, so there’s not much to complain about. But I’m getting ready to start facing some live hitters. I know we’ll face some in minicamp.”
Aside from pitching, Jobe is eager to build a relationship with his newest teachers — director of pitching Gabe Ribas, upper-levels pitching coordinator Steve Smith and lower-levels pitching coordinator Stephanos Stroop — when he arrives in Lakeland next month for spring training.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting them to make the all the changes that they made, but I’ve talked to a lot of the new pitching guys,” Jobe said. “I love their philosophy and where their heads are at. I’m excited to meet them and learn from them.”
Ribas, hired in October, came from the Los Angeles Dodgers. He worked with coaching staffs, performance science, strength and conditioning and baseball analytics to develop the Dodgers’ pitching development program.
Stroop, too, was pulled away from the Dodgers.
“When I get down there, we’ll talk a lot more,” Jobe said of Ribas. “I’m sure he has a good plan for me. I’m really excited for what he’s going to do. I know he did great things with the Dodgers, so I think he’s going to help us out a lot.”
Although Smith didn’t work for Los Angeles, he served as Tigers right-hander Casey Mize’s pitching coach for his junior season at Auburn. Smith was the head coach at Tennessee Tech for two seasons before the Tigers picked him up.
“We built a really good relationship,” Mize said Monday. “I learned a lot from him. We worked pretty good together. We kept in touch, and I’m really looking forward to working with him again. I was pumped that he’s going to be joining us.”
In three weeks, Jobe will travel to Lakeland for the beginning of his first season in the minor leagues. It’s unclear if he will debut in the Florida Complex League or Low-A Lakeland, but Jobe isn’t concerned about that.
He just wants to pitch.
“I’m trying to stay within myself,” Jobe said. “I know I have the stuff to be successful. I’m trying not to overthink it. I’m just going to go out there and try to learn from each out. That’s all I can ask from myself.
“I have a lot of confidence in myself. I have a lot of confidence in my stuff. If I go out there, attack guys and do things the way I do them, then things will go how I want them to.”