Around the Tigers’ farm: Izaac Pacheco warms up; Jackson Jobe builds up

Detroit News

Given their past history with second-round draft picks, which, as far as position players goes, has not been sterling, the Tigers were bound at some point to score.

They might have something going at Single-A Lakeland where Izaac Pacheco is suddenly clicking.

Heading into Sunday’s game, Pacheco was on a 9-for-27 run the past eight games, with a pair of home runs and four doubles.

Pacheco is a left-handed hitter, only 19, who a year ago was finishing his senior season at Friendswood (Texas) High.

He can play shortstop, although third base is the more likely permanent destination for a man who stands 6-foot-4, weighs 225, and who owns a left-side infield arm.

“I think this is what we expected,” said Ryan Garko, who is the Tigers’ chief of player development. “He’s made some changes in his swing, hitting fastballs up and away, keeping his front shoulder in and using the whole field.”

More: With strong start at Erie, Garrett Hill has look of another late-round gem

Pacheco last summer was on his way to Texas A&M, at least if MLB teams decided to draft him deeper than the second round and pay him inadequate (in his estimation) cash to forgo college. The Tigers decided they wanted Pacheco and his power potential and were willing to write a check for $2.75 million, which took care of any Texas A&M enticements.

There long has been about Pacheco plenty of swing-and-miss anxiety. The Tigers didn’t disagree with scouts’ worries, but believed some quality coaching and refining would help. And that appears to be the case. Pacheco fanned only seven times during those 27 at-bats spanning eight April games, which, as strikeout ratios go, is survivable.

“It shows us he’s controlling the zone,” Garko said. “Controlling the zone was probably our top priority with him.

“The power is pretty exciting. It’s such a tool for him.”

Jobe’s job: Build innings

Jackson Jobe in his second start of 2022 increased by 100% his innings quota.

He threw two innings Saturday for Single-A Lakeland, striking out four, walking none, and allowing but one hit.

Jobe, 19, was the Tigers’ first pick and third overall player grabbed in last July’s MLB Draft.

He has been on a tight leash after pitching only 51 innings a year ago when he was a senior at Heritage Hall High in Oklahoma City.

“We’ll bump him an inning next time,” Garko said Sunday, “then keep him at four (innings) for five starts.”

Jobe’s heavy profile derives from a fastball that runs 95-97, as well as a slider that can break with the ease of a barn-swallow.

His work Saturday was more efficient than it had been in his April 17 debut, when he threw one inning that included an error and missed double-play that led to too many pitches.

Some first-game nerves also were at work.

“Yesterday, he threw his fastball and got ahead of hitters better,” said Garko, who has no timetable for sending Jobe to high-A West Michigan.

“If we see a guy dominating, we’ll move him,” Garko said. “There are things you look at: swing-and-miss, and his called-strike stat.

“If he’s not using all of his pitches, where the league is not forcing him to really pitch — he’s just over-stuffing the league — certainly, we’ll move him.”

That point hasn’t arrived — yet.

The Tigers would be the first to admit they won’t be surprised if Jobe pushes the issue.

Pitchers, and more tough breaks

The Tigers are dealing already with season-ending pitching injuries.

Max Green, a left-handed reliever who was an eighth-round pick in 2017 (Pepperdine), is out for 2022 after having Tommy John ligament surgery in January.

Also gone for the year after Tommy John repairs were made in February is right-hand reliever Zack Hess, a seventh-rounder (2019) from Louisiana State, who pitched last year at West Michigan and in the Arizona Fall League.

Although he has less of a profile with Tigers followers after signing as a free agent in July of 2021, another casualty has been Chris Mauloni, who likely is gone for the year with shoulder ills.

Mauloni, 23, struck out 87 batters in 58 innings last season at Lakeland and West Michigan.

“That one hurt,” Garko said of a one-time closer for Jacksonville University who looked very good during spring camp. “He was one of our most interesting guys.”

A position player who has been missing in action but who is about to reunite with West Michigan: first baseman Reynaldo Rivera, another of those second-rounders who hasn’t yet found peace with his swing. He has missed April’s games with a sore hamstring.

Better times for Perez

Wenceel Perez was considered one of those bigger-dollar ($550,000), bigger-ceiling Latin talents when the Tigers signed him six years ago as a switch-hitter and shortstop.

He was just OK during a 2021 season that began at Lakeland and finished at West Michigan.

But he’s back with the Whitecaps in 2022 and looking more like the player Tigers scouts saw during his early teen years in the Dominican Republic.

Perez is batting .333, with a .436 on-base percentage, three home runs, four doubles, and a 1.058 OPS through Sunday’s game.

“He’s putting together good swings and hitting for power,” Garko said. “He’s still only 22, and this has been a nice start for him. He’s been controlling those at-bats.”

Lynn Henning is a freelance writer and retired Detroit News sports reporter.

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